GAME ON (1)
1966



In 1966, On Kawara worked in a massive loft studio at 405 East 13th Street. It's there he began Date Painting and by the end of 1966 the studio was full of "Today". I mean hundreds of Dates. On commemorated the occasion by taking a set of photos and by including seven of these in his Journal for 1966. However, there were several more taken which I made use of in coming up with the diagrams I made of the studio in the 1966 essay.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holders, On Kawara Studio and David Zwirner, New York.

Yesterday (JAN.20, 2022), I borrowed the hefty tome,
On Kawara: Whole and Parts, from St Andrews University Library. This is a retrospective volume that was proposed by On Kawara in 1996, though others are credited with the book's editing. In the 'Works' section, alongside such series as 'I GOT UP AT', 'I WENT', and 'I MET', is listed Studio Photos 1966. And amongst the ten images, there are two that are new to me, as well as two that have been differently cropped and which reveal more of the studio set up.

The diagram I drew for the aforementioned 1966 essay on the basis of my previous knowledge, was as below:

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My understanding of the situation is now the following. The differently cropped photo that changes my understanding of the large space is photo 14 in the new diagram below, one of those photos marked in red. (It's a new crop of photo 4, indicated in black.)

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The differently cropped photo is as follows. And it's the information along the left edge that is new to me. In guiding my eye into the small office studio at the back, walls (in the old diagram) come crashing down!


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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holders, On Kawara Studio and David Zwirner, New York.

But before focussing on the inner office, another perspective on the massive loft. The presence in Whole and Parts of this next photo was also new to me, and it shows Date Paintings from November and December, 1966.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holders, On Kawara Studio and David Zwirner, New York.

Hang on, the phone's ringing:

On: "Hullo."

Kasper: "It's me. How's it looking?"

On: "Beautiful view."

Kasper: "It must be a magnificent sight."

On: "Magnificent desolation."

Kasper: "Get the panorama…The big picture…The whole and the parts…The year and the days…"

On: "I'm in the middle of doing that."

Kasper: "I'll leave you to it. Good luck."

On: "Thank-you."


So the above photo is number 13, marked in red, in the new studio diagram. The right hand wall of the whole building has now had to be slightly differently drawn.

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The 'area not shown by photos' is now differently set out. The oblong patch shaded in pink in the middle of the right wall is where Date Paintings from late September and early October were likely to be found. For some reason, On Kawara did not take a photo of that part of the studio. Or the photo has not yet come to light. Apart from that, the vast majority of the 241 Date Painting made that calendar year can be traced to one or another of the photos. I can't quite say exactly which are missing as the clarity of the Dates fades in some corners of the building. In any case, let 405 East 13th Street circa 1966 be allowed to keep a few of its secrets.

But there is something I feel motivated to follow up. Below is the surprise among the 'new' photos. It shows that there was a large Date Painting for July 18 on display in On Kawara's studio-office.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holders, On Kawara Studio and David Zwirner, New York.


The Journal tells us that this Date was size F. This makes it the largest Date Painting completed in the year, notwithstanding the enormous Date painted on 20th September but which wasn't finished on the day itself so didn't make it into the final record. (I discuss that at length in the earlier essay.)

Interestingly,
JULY18,1966 is subtitled "Gemini 10". This was an important pre-Apolllo mission, where the command module successfully secured itself to an old space vessel, and one of the astronauts performed a space walk. Actually, I think two docking and three extravehicular walks were involved.

A few days later, On Kawara painted another 'Gemini' date,
JULY21,1966, size E, which was given the subtitle "The Gemini 10 capsule in which John Young and Mike Collins had soared to 474 miles during 70 hours splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at 5.07P.M. today before the eyes of millions of TV viewers in the U.S.A."

Clearly this echoes the huge excitement On Kawara felt exactly three years later when he recorded the Apollo 11 mission in a triptych of very large (size H) canvases on JULY 16, JULY 20 and JULY 21, 1969.

But it had passed me by - until seeing the above photo - that this one size F date painting was made in 1966, and it was given prime position in On Kawara's inner sanctum. Of which I feel inclined to say a bit more.

This is how I had understood the studio-office:

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But the existence of three new sight-lines into the room give us this:

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I expect one of those doors seen at the bottom edge of the capsule led to a toilet. But we don't need to concern ourselves with how our astronauts dealt with bodily functions, do we?

Now another differently cropped image found in 'Whole and Parts' is this one:

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holders, On Kawara Studio and David Zwirner, New York.


At the left edge is a canvas that is not
a Date Painting, one that says simply: 'ART'. This is one of many canvases that were made in 1965 and which boasted a single word painted in the middle of a large canvas. Clearly, for his journal, On Kawara didn't want the viewer to be alerted to this earlier work, most of which was destroyed, hence the alternative crop for the journal as shown below.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holders, On Kawara Studio and David Zwirner, New York.


It may not have escaped your notice that the photos do not reveal what was hanging on the fourth wall of On Kawara's office-studio. That is the wall on the left of the diagram:

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There is a single Date from January 1966 that is not accounted for by other photos of the space. Possibly as many as four from February, five from March and so on. But I prefer to take a more imaginative approach to the fourth wall. I give you this:


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Yes, here I sit at a large table with my computer and a few signs (ruler, pencil, paintbrush) that every now and again I interrupt my research - and my writing - to make a Date Painting.

I look at my screen and see that the last sentence that I've typed reads: '
And I hope my spaceship knows which way to go-oh.'



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