1973 (3)

On August 24, On and Hiroko got back to New York. For On Kawara that was two big trips he'd undertaken in 1973, from Stockholm to West Africa, and from New York to Nova Scotia and back. Which left him with one more enormous trip to do. But first a month of hanging out in the Big Apple.

The book called
On Kawara: One Year's Production has a section of I MET which gives the lists of people OK met from September 16 to October 7. The table below is list of all the names encountered in that 22-day period, listed on the day their name first appeared. The number represents how many times the name crops up.

Sep. 16
Hiroko Hiraoka 24 (also includes the 2 days that On Kawara and Hiroko went to and came back from Buttergrove Camp in Roscoe.)
Soruko Toyoshima 6
Shu Takahashi 5
Maria Berrios 10

Sep. 17
Robert Fisher 1
Noriko Sueyoshi 1
George Cohn 2
Antony Lauro 3
Chie Matsura 4
Hugh Shiroo 5
Atsuko Shibata 2
Christopher Kearn 2
Yuichiro Shibata 2
Martin Segal 3

Sep. 18
Richard Pugliese 2
Kenji Kiritani 3
Soroku Toyoshima 2
Masao Narata 2

Sep 19
Hirotsugu Aoki 5
Gwen Hendrix 1

Sep 20
Teresa O’Connor 1

Sep 21
Keiko Narahara 7
Ikko NaraHara 7

Sep 22
Takako Takahashi 2

Sep 24
Armanda Ramirez

Sep 26
Yuichiro Shibata 3

Sep 27
Jack Plunkett 2
Martin Segal
Pedro Gonzalez 2

Sep 30
Nobomitsu Fukui 1
Miyuki Fukui 1

Oct 1
Ken-ichi Narahara 1

Oct 2
Sol Zucker 1

Oct 3
Kate Mallett 1
Ro Toyoshima 1

Oct 4
Jim Selley 1
Genny Pugliese 1

Oct 6
Retsu Takahashi 1

On Kawara met Hiroko every day. He met Maria Berrios ten times, Keiko and Ikko Narahara, seven times; Soruko Toyoshima, six times; Shu Takahashi, Hugh Shiroo and Hirotsugu Aoki five times. This suggests that On Kawara's New York life was closely bound up with the Japanese expat community. The seeming exception, Maria Bellios, is usually listed after - but in close proximity to - Hiroko, perhaps suggesting she was Hiroko's maid or companion. Though that is an assumption and could be embarrassingly wide of the mark.

There were no visits to the Kawashima household, so perhaps no mah jong was played in the period. No Ansell Bray nor
Masami Kodama.

The last of these I MET lists was for October 7. The day after that, On (and Hiroko, I'm guessing, after all she went with her husband to Canada) set off on a road-trip that would take them around the States in a great west-south-east loop. To what extent the stops were planned in advance, I couldn't say. But I imagine the artist had an idea of his itinerary from the outset.


What is the purpose of a road trip? To find out about the country one lives in? Or to find out about oneself? Perhaps a balance is struck between looking inwards and outwards. Certainly, if your name is On Kawara, and you're in the habit of spending hours each day (though not every day) painting the date, that has got to be the case. But only someone essentially interested in the world records a map of where he ventures on a daily basis.

The 'looking in'
complements the 'looking out'. On could do that at home in New York, amongst the Japanese expat community, but it seems that in 1973, he liked to take his philosophy on the road. Where the hotel, each new hotel, became a home-from-home.


October 8, 1973. Arrive.
October 9, 1973. Date Paint.
October 10, 1973. Date Paint.
October 11, 1973. Depart.

The first Date Paintings of the trip were made on October 9 and October 10.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On October 10, On Kawara also sent a postcard to Konrad Fischer, the German dealer who had already received a sequence of 120 cards on Kawara's return from Mexico to New York, starting on April 1, 1969. He was the visionary German gallerist who had shown One Million Years in 1971 and On Kawara's first solo show of Today Series in 1972. There would be further solo shows at his Dusseldorf gallery in 1975 and 1979. I know that sounds a bit dry, but one mustn't underestimate the focus and drive of a successful operator in the art world. And Konrad Fischer's legendary reputation rivals Kasper Konig's. Or do I mean eclipses it? No, no, I think they must have been friends. The one's vision and achievement fed into the other's

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Below is the hotel presently standing where the above painting was made. The Motor Lodge is now called the Pittsburg Marriott City Center Hotel. A modernist monstrosity? I haven't been inside. But it doesn't look very welcoming from the outside.


Returning to the postcard, the Three Rivers Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (football), was an iconic building in this city of bridges. On Kawara may have seen it when his route got close to the river, as suggested by the day's I WENT. See centre-left of the map below.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Now, in 2021, the Three Rivers Stadium is no longer in existence (imploded in 2001) but has been replaced by two new stadia, one each for baseball and football. The image below tries (and fails: bad Google) to echo the picture postcard.


Also new is the Andy Warhol Museum, built in 1994, a few years after his death. That's it on the north side of the river, while On Kawara's hotel for October 1973 is marked with a red circle on the southern side. One associates Warhol with New York, but he was born in Pittsburgh. Just one 400-mile greyhound bus trip from the Big Apple.


A fifteen-minute black and white film – now archived at the Andy Warhol Museum – was made during David Bowie's visit to the Factory on September 14, 1971, a date when On Kawara was working in New York, though that wasn't a Date Painting day. Bowie was obviously keen to make a positive impression on Warhol, but I don't think he did. His long flowing hair and his trousers held up by an elasticated waistband may have made an awkward impression rather than a gender-bending one. The distance between the two can be sensed in the verses of the song Bowie wrote called 'Andy Warhol', with its famous chorus:

"Andy Warhol looks a scream
Hang him on my wall.
Andy Warhol, silver screen
Can't tell them apart at all."

One has to cross the Andy Warhol Bridge (bottom right of aerial photo) to reach the Andy Warhol Museum (top left).


Oh, Andy, your home town is so proud of you! It is an exquisite, stone building. In the picture below, the nearest window is covered with the blue and yellow cow print that Warhol once covered the walls of a New York gallery with.


Did Andy Warhol make a positive impression on On Kawara? Let me put my mind to that question back at the hotel. After all, there is a modernist couch to sit on, and signage to savour. Andy would have loved that stand-alone metal sign to be placed outside his gallery. Sorry, Museum.


On: "Andy says,'In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes'."

Hiroko: "Do you believe him?"

On (shrugging): "There are certain things I want to be. Famous for fifteen minutes isn't one of them."

Hiroko: "Tell me one thing you do want to be."

On: "Hanging out with you all day."

Hiroko: "Thank-you! But how about a museum dedicated to your work?

On (laughing): "The Museum of On Kawara?"

Hiroko: "I will set up a
Million Years Foundation."

OK: "Not in Pittsburgh."

Hiroko: "We will leave Pittsburgh to Andy."

In due course,
On and Hiroko ascended the hotel by lift. Inside their suite, On Kawara drew the date in pencil on a background colour of dark grey that he had prepared earlier. And then he painted-in the numbers and letters, carefully, in white.

And, long, long before midnight, they turned out perfectly, and perfectly white.

Meanwhile (so to speak), in a parallel universe:


In the live performance I've just watched of that song, Bowie sings those words with an edge of steel, rather than charm, and the last line is delivered as "What a
fucking boring thing to do." So now we know.

I think if it had been On and Hiroko's song, the adjective would have been 'Andy'. Thus: "What an Andy boring thing to do."

Or is that just the On and Hiroko I have in mind, bearing little relation to reality?


October 11, 1973. Arrive.
October 12, 1973. Date Paint.
October 13, 1973. Date Paint.
October 14, 1973. Depart.

The Date Painting I have a reproduction of, courtesy of the book,
Date Painting in 89 Cities:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I have access to an October 12 postcard and I MET map. Forgive the lack of exact congruence with the Date Painting.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Sudden thought. Is On Kawara travelling across America on the bus? I suspect not, but all possibilities must be borne in mind.

I wonder what Konrad Fischer made of getting this second stream of postcards from On Kawara. Presumably he liked getting the 120 back in 1969, as he'd gone on to show On Kawara's work in his gallery in Dusseldorf in 1971 and 1972. And this time around it was completely different. On Kawara was not resident in New York, sending a New York-based card every day. He was on a road trip across America, and the cards reflected that in a thoughtful way, day after day.

Here is the I WENT made on the same day as the Greyhound Bus Terminal picture postcard was sent to Konrad Fischer. The red route is not very clear. But you can make out the hotel where OK stayed in the middle of the map, west and south of the river that loops through Cleveland.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The area where On Kawara's hotel was, is being redeveloped. What I mean is, in 2021 it's just a cleared site.


As I say, the route that OK took on October 12, is not very clear on the I WENT, so I've marked it in red on a Google Map:


The places OK went into, seem to be the metro (though its not marked as such), on the left of the circuit going around the Statehouse, and the bus station, bottom right of the circuit. I don't know why he would do that on a non-travelling day. Unless that was where he bought his ticket for travelling out on October 14. Or where he bought the postcard he would use on October 12.

Anyway, the bus station hasn't changed since 1973. Here is the same view of it in 2021, courtesy of Google Street View. The iconic greyhound sign has gone, as have the two very different poles that kept it in the sky. And the building is stripped of some of its Art Deco trimming. But it's survived.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

What am I going to put in my Date Painting box for June 8, 2021? Nothing as yet. I'm going to get on a Greyhound and head out further west. I'm aware that I don't know whether On Kawara was travelling on his own, or with Hiroko, nor whether he/they were travelling by car or by bus. I will know the answer to those questions sooner or later. But I don't know them at this precise moment in time. Which is fine.


The story here is:

October 14, 1973. Arrive.
October 15, 1973. Date Paint.
October 16, 1973. Depart.

So without further ado:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Postcard for Konrad?

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It has to be realised that the postcard traffic wasn't all one way. Konrad Fischer produced a card for each show he hosted, and so I expect the following gatefold had dropped through On Kawara's New York letterbox in the spring (the dates of the Richard Long show were from 29 March to 25 June, 1973).

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

The subtitle of the show was 'RESTING PLACES ALONG A JOURNEY.' I suspect Long transported a particular stone from place to place and photographed it at each stop. Not a million miles from what On Kawara was doing, though don't ask me to justify that statement. He may have made the walk, and the art, in the American landscape, but it could also be Iceland or Nepal, for example.

On Kawara had met Richard Long in the company of Konrad Fischer (or at least while attending the same event) per an I MET of February, 1971. Kawara may have responded with interest to Long's globetrotting. They had that in common. Another thing they had in common was a disinterest in publicity. Richard Long didn't like being interviewed any more than On Kawara did. Though Long did give the occasional interview, or make the occasional statement, which On Kawara did not do. Kawara insisted that his work speak for itself.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

A detail of I WENT follows below. There is no hotel at 1920 North Meridian these days. Indeed it looks like nothing much is happening there. Clearly, On Kawara made a couple of service stops nearby, but the more scenic part of his day must have been at the southern end of his route.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I should say, in passing, that On Kawara on 15th October did not go within sight of the Indiana State Museum - pictured on his postcard. He may have seen it on his arrival day, thus explaining the choice of postcard. Because I've a feeling that the choice of postcard does stick pretty close to his actual experience.

This aerial view shows the importance of the Monument, with its circular road. Some people - suburbanites at heart - would call it a turning circle. Actually, the whole On Kawara route through Indianapolis, as marked in red, is like something that Richard Long would have paced out in a wilderness, ending by making, for example, a circle of wayside stones. No, not ending there, because Long would then have taken a photograph of the route from a suitable vantage point.


Or, back home in his studio, made marks and placed words on an Ordnance Survey map, so that the annotated map could be exhibited in a gallery or reproduced in a book.

At street level, below, was what On Kawara must have seen as he went around Monument Circle.


On Kawara also seems to have wandered west down this side street, just north of the circle. To be absorbed by its concrete bleakness, perhaps. Is this looking in or looking out?


I suppose if you stood there and painted the date in white letters onto one of the stones, painted dark blue, red or near-black, that would be an inward looking thing to do.

If Richard Long was to find himself here, he might be expected to take the plastic bins and place them in a row along the walking line.

But I'm not happy with that. It makes light of the work of both artists, each of whom had (and in Long's case still has) a rigorous practice that I'm brimming with respect for.

Perhaps the problem is that Indianapolis is not quite hitting the spot. As perhaps it didn't for On Kawara, accounting for his brief stay there. And, of course, Richard Long has never been an urban artist. Unless you count sublime city galleries as urban spaces, which I do.

Anyway, I'm not staying long either. I'm jumping on a Greyhound and heading out west. 240 miles until the next stop. Nearly four hours of staring out of the window of the coach, trying not to write the date on the patch of the window frosted by my own breath.


October 16, 1973. Arrive.
October 17, 1973. Date Paint.
October 18, 1973. Date Paint.
October 19, 1973. Date Paint.
October 20, 1973. Depart.

On Kawara is getting into a road-trip rhythm. I'm beginning to think Hiroko wasn't there. Entertaining herself for three days in St Louis might have been pushing it. Though I reserve judgement.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

A detail of I WENT follows. Again, there is no hotel at 2211 Market Street (right edge of map below) these days. Really, the buildings of North America seem much more disposable than elsewhere in the world, based on the places that On Kawara stayed.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

At least the artist got to see something special in St Louis. That is, the geodesic dome in the botanical gardens, the building that features on his postcard. Judging by the left edge of the I WENT route, On Kawara had a walk around the gardens as well.


But the picture postcard view is this. And it's still there today.


I still don't know if On Kawara was travelling by Greyhound or car. If I had an I WENT for a day of arrival or departure, then I might be able to work it out. But I don't.

Anyway, I'm not getting in any more buses today. I'm stopping right here.

Andy Warhol image reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

I wasn't sure what to put in the box. It's a polaroid taken by Andy Warhol, dated May 25 1984. That is, eleven years after this road-trip, three years before his death and ten years before the Andy Warhol Museum was built in Pittsburgh. The image that was sold at Christie's for 1500 dollars is a gelatine silver print, 8 x 10 inches, so is exactly the same size as an On Kawara Date Painting, size A.

What I like best about the photo is the pole. I imagine that there is a greyhound being held aloft by said pole. A greyhound that Andy pretended not to notice.

As I am carefully placing the print in the box, an email comes in from Jonathan Watkins at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, replying to something I asked him earlier in the day. He kindly informs me that On Kawara drove a car. At least he did in the 2000s.

It's 9.23 P.M. Time enough to choose something else as accompanying documentation. But I leave the box as is, and turn my mind to tomorrow's itinerary.


October 20, 1973. Arrive.
October 21, 1973. Date Paint.
October 22, 1973. Depart.

On Kawara was still very much in a road-trip rhythm. Or was he? The newspaper extract lining the Date Painting box for October 21 is a list of automobiles for sale.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Has On had enough of the bus? Has the car he left New York with broken down?

Let us be calm and proceed as usual. Whether or not On Kawara had a difficulty with his mode of transport, that would make no difference to his daily production of postcards and a map.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I'm going straight to the detail of October 21's I WENT. Then I remember the first rule of road-tripping across the USA: locate your Holiday Inn.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Second rule, see if your Holiday Inn still exists today. So far in this trip, the Holiday Inns have not lasted into the present day.

It turns out that the building is still there, now run by Capital Center Inns, but clearly it has seen better days.


From I WENT we can see that On Kawara spent part of October 21, wandering in front of the hotel down towards the highway.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

From here he could look back at the hotel…


Or he could look north, across the highway to the Municipal Auditorium and City Hall, the building he chose for the picture side of his postcard.


This building has changed a lot less than the Holiday Inn. It is now called the Topeka Performing Arts Center. And showing in June 2019 was… well see for yourself:


Isn't it great to be in Kansas? I've a feeling On Kawara was loving the vibe. The Infinity Dance Recital begins on June 11. Of which year? I honestly don't know. I was dipping into the Google Street View archive and I can't seem to recover this particular announcement.

But let's just check this is the right building. Below is the front of it from the same angle that the postcard pic was taken. Yes, it's the same building all right.


And now an overview of Holiday Inn (bottom right) and Municipal Auditorium (top left). I think the buildings complement each other. One stays much the same, and the other declines over the decades. Meanwhile the traffic rushes through, creating holes in both space and time.

Is it not for juxtapositions like this that one travels? It almost feel that if I looked carefully enough at the photo below I would make out a line of standing stones erected by an urbanised Richard Long, banned from rural Kansas and from the natural world of desert and plain.





"Can you hear me, master On?
Can you hear me, master On?
Can you…"


"…He-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ere, am I, sitting on a Greyhound, all across the world.
Planet earth is true, and that's all I want to do."


October 22, 1973. Arrive.
October 23, 1973. R&R.
October 24, 1973. Date Paint.
October 25, 1973. Date Paint.
October 26, 1973. Date Paint.
October 27, 1973. Date Paint.
October 28, 1973. Date Paint.
October 29, 1973 R&R
October 30, 1973. Depart

Again I don't have an I WENT for arrival or departure, so I still don't know if On Kawara was bussing it across the States. However, the Date Painting I have access to, shows Egyptian prisoners of war sitting on an Israeli bus. Should I read anything into that? Or should I remember Samuel Beckett's words: 'No symbols where none intended.'

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Again the congruence between Date Painting and postcard-that-I-have-access-to is not total. But it's only one day out.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Miniature golf in the summer and ice skating in the winter? Seems it doesn't matter what time of year you get to Denver, it's going to be fun, fun, fun, all the way.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara was staying at the Gotham Hotel. Well, I expect that hasn't changed its name, Batman never goes out of fashion.

Actually, it's now called Gotham City Condominiums. So the name has been kept but it's no longer a hotel, instead it's privately owned flats.


The green space with special architecture in the centre of the city is within walking distance of where On Kawara stayed.


The splendid building pictured in the postcard is the left hand side of the civic area.


The I WENT map for October 25 tells us that OK visited Denver Art Museum, close by. That's the notch on the red route just to the south of the Civic Center

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I must remember that OK stayed in Denver for a week. It's possible that he visited this civic area many times, it is spacious and full of fine architecture, green spaces and statues. It would be interesting to know if the postcards Kawara sent focussed exclusively on this area. After all, OK completed a Date Painting in Denver for five days in a row. He wouldn't have been going too far afield in between times. Unless Hiroko was going stir-crazy and insisted they sightsee.


In the civic area, as well as the cowboy on the bucking bronco, there is a statue of an Indian, leaning on his bow, with his foot on a dead buffalo. Now I thought it was white men and their rifles, not to mention their machine guns, that decimated the buffalo/bison population. But what do I know? I know that this statue has been in situ for over a hundred years. It must be understood in a complicated way.


I must remember that the source of my Date Painting images is
Date Paintings in 89 Cities. While my source of I WENT maps and I GOT UP postcards is On Kawara: horizontality/verticality. Now it was Kasper Konig who organised the latter volume. Which means that it was either him or On Kawara that chose the I WENT and I GOT UP material. In other words, it may be deliberate that access to arrival and departure information is being withheld. It may be that by showing a certain stream of postcards and withholding another stream of them, one pattern is being revealed while another is being hidden. Time will tell.


October 30, 1973. Arrive.
October 31, 1973. Date Paint.
November 1, 1973. Depart.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

What's happening in the photograph that On Kawara has placed inside his Date Painting box? The tall guy on the left has presented a letter of congratulations to the guy on the right who has worked for 23 years as a technical service engineer for the State Highways Department. I guess its people like him who keep the roads open for buses and cars alike.

Let's turn to the I GOT UP postcard of the same date:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The picture on the postcard is a room that dates from before 1541. Thus it's a pre-Spanish Indian Pueblo. Located close to On Kawara's hotel? Well, let's check out the I WENT.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The hotel is still there, and 'Desert' is still in its name: Garnett's Desert Inn.


Very close by is the house that is shown in the postcard. Below is an outside view of it:


Without the 'DO NOT ENTER' sign, any number of foolish white people would drive their cars in front of the ancient houses. Even park there.

"Park as close as you can to the place, Paw."

"Will right outside the mud wall be close enough for ya, Hon?"

I think it's time for me to make my own Date Painting. If I can call it that. Anyway, here goes.


I've brought the motif with me from Denver to Santa Fe. And seeing the Indian house has brought it into focus. I don't mind the Denver sculpture from this angle. I can believe that the Indian, with his bowed back, is lamenting the loss of the buffalo, respected fellow creature, ancient source of food and hide. The foot on rump motif can be understood as a meeting of flesh, a recycling of skin. Man and animal as blood brothers. But let's solicit other views:

"Hey, Paw, what was it like shooting bison on the plain with an aut-o-mat-ic rifle?"

"It was like shootin' fish in a barrel, Hon."

"That easy, was it, Paw?"

"It was like harpoonin' whales on a dead calm, crystal clear ocean."

"Like in the good old days when you worked for the State Highways Department?"

"Like in them good old days. God bless 'em."

All right, that'll do for now. (Two Date Paintings in a single day.

I'll get on the morning bus and by tomorrow afternoon I will be another 384 miles down the road. The journey time is reckoned to be five hours and forty minutes.

I say again: two DPs in one day. UPTOWN TOP RANKING!


As the bus sets off, I remember something. In 1995 Richard Long stayed in Santa Fe and made work there, which I saw later that year at Anthony D'Offay's oasis of a gallery in London. A photograph of a circle of wayside stones in the foreground of a wide, flat New Mexican landscape attracted my attention. As did a large framed text, which I can look up easily enough to remind myself of the exact wording:


The 'El Camino Real' is a reference to where Long stayed in Santa Fe. At the time I wrote an essay about the show at D'Offay's, a fairly free engagement I have to say, and sent it to the gallery. It was forwarded to the artist, and 1996 began on a good footing, with the receipt of this card from Richard Long:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Note the use of a maroon stamp. What On Kawara could do on his postcards, Richard Long could do - in his own distinct way - on his. The stamp motif reminds me of the native Indian with his foot on body of the buffalo. Man and nature; man and the world: their interdependence.

It was generous of the artist to respond to my text in this way (and even more generous to answer a question I'd asked about what time of year the walk had taken place in New Mexico: early spring). He also enclosed the card that Konrad Fischer had just sent out to promote the show that had opened in Dusseldorf in December, 1995.


Which reminds me that KF's gallery was a crucial supporter of both Richard Long and On Kawara, so here's a list of shows of these individuals held at Konrad Fischer's Dusseldorf (and occasionally Zurich) gallery from 1968 to 1995:

1968: Richard Long. "Sculpture"
1969: "Richard J Long"
1970: Richard Long "Eine Sculpture von Richard Long"
1971: On Kawara: "One Million Years"
1972: On Kawara: "Today Series"

1973: Richard Long "A Rolling Stone"
1974: Richard Long "River Avon Driftwood"
1975: "On Kawara"
1976: Richard Long "River Avon Driftwood"
1978: "Richard Long"
1979: "On Kawara"
1980: "Richard Long"
1980: On Kawara "Date Paintings"
1981: "Richard Long" (Zurich)
1981: "One Million Years" (Zurich)
1982: On Kawara "Date Paintings" (Zurich)
1983: "Richard Long"
1984: "Richard Long"
1988: "Richard Long"
1990: Richard Long "Turf Line"
1991: "On Kawara"
1992: "Richard Long"
1994: Richard Long "Shenandoah Neandertal"
1995: Richard Long "Walking Stones"
1995: On Kawara: "Red Paintings"

In 27 years, 16 solo shows by Richard Long and 9 by On Kawara. The only years that there wasn't a show of either On Kawara or Richard Long, apart from in the late '80s, was 1977 and 1993. It even looks as if Konrad Fischer tried to have a show by either Richard Long or On Kawara every year. That applies strictly in the nine years from 1968 to 1976. It's as if Konrad Fischer planned his annual exhibition strategy around the anchoring presence of one of these two weighty artists, who had so much in common: a self-contained personality, a globe-trotting habit, and a meditative process that drove a unique practice. Oh, yes, and both were advocates of 'less is more' and 'simple is complex'.

Less is more.

Simple is complex.

Enough is enough.


November 1, 1973. Arrive.
November 2, 1973. Date Paint.
November 3, 1973. Depart.

On Kawara's November got off to a fine start with this Date Painting:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

But what's with the list of items for sale? Is On Kawara looking out for a portable toilet? a typewriter? Or rubber stamps? That phone number re the rubber stamps might have tempted him. (I appreciate you can't quite read that on the above copy. Always remember that the actual books I'm scanning from may be worth investing in for the quality of their illustrations.)

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

This is the second Imperial '400' Motel that On Kawara has stayed at. The first is no longer around and this one has changed hands as well. It's still run as a hotel though, as you can see from the building with the distinctive roof shape:


Unusually, the postcard that On Kawara sent is split into two scenes. To get my own contemporary version of the mountains on the bottom half of the postcard, I dare say a Street View from somewhere in Flagstaff would do. But this overhead view shows the mountains to the north-east of the town clearly enough.


Turning to I WENT, I'm curious to know what On Kawara was doing in the building double-marked on another side of the triangle made by his red route that took in the hotel.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've briefly investigated all the other stops and have nothing to report. And the building on Molosis Lane is fairly new and anonymous. However, if I select 2008 from the archive of Street Views at this point, the following comes up on screen…


Bingo! Difficult to understand why Flagstaff knocked down this Art Deco delight. Difficult also to understand why On Kawara makes two marks in respect of the building. One for going in, and one for going out? I suppose there are two entrances, and both are revolving doors. So the artist may simply be remembering and celebrating his going in and his coming out.

But why enter the building on a non-travel day? To buy postcards? To buy a ticket for onward travel? But why would OK buy a bus ticket if he was driving his own car?

Rather than get bogged down in these questions, I'm going to hit the road.


November 3, 1973. Arrive.
November 4, 1973. Play.
November 5, 1973. Play.
November 6, 1973. Date Paint.
November 7, 1973. Date Paint.
November 8, 1973. Date Paint.
November 9, 1973. Play.
November 10, 1973. Play.
November 11, 1973. Depart.

I'm guessing when I say that On Kawara spent a few days in the casinos. But he did spend longer in Las Vegas than anywhere else, and that's what people do when they come to this palace built on sand. Correction, the very occasional person comes to Las Vegas primarily to paint the date.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The I GOT UP card and I WENT map I've access to, is November 9. That was not a Date Painting day, so the I WENT may offer some clues to what he got up to. But first the card:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The I WENT shows that On Kawara had an active day.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

There were as many as six areas of activity. I'm going to use Google Maps to investigate all six. First, the hotel itself.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Let's check in at Somerset House Motel. Well, that won't be easy. As at April 2019, it's a building site…


…But if we take it back to 2009 (see below), we see what On Kawara saw:


I think I understand what's happened here. Las Vegas was always famous. Now everyone wants to be in Las Vegas for fifteen minutes. So they've knocked down small motels and built back at a much larger scale. They've supersized it.

The Stardust Hotel and auditorium (two separate buildings according to On Kawara's map, have been knocked down also. The scene from above is reminiscent of an archaeological dig. The red building is an enormous new hotel that has newly risen from the rubble.


Second, a circuit just north of the hotel, which On Kawara would have done in a car. Nobody walks in the desert heat. Nobody with a wallet.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Let's see if the Sahara Hotel (top of survives. We'll go via Riviera Drive. Actually that's been renamed the Elvis Presley Boulevard. Which means there's bound to be an Andy Warhol Drive somewhere.

The Sahara is still there. It's an enormous hotel and casino complex. On Kawara obviously went into it. Perhaps he walked the length of it and then exited the back entrance in order to be sick?


I mustn't be judgemental. Paying a fortune to live in luxury in the desert is fine. Sleeping by day and gambling all night is an adult way to behave.

But hang on. On Kawara got up at a respectable 9.04 A.M. on the 9th of November. Moreover, had three three Las Vegas Date Paintings under his belt. He could afford to hit the town!

Where next? Well, if I carry on the way I'm going - south down Las Vegas Boulevard - I'll get to the Sage and Sand Motel which On Kawara seems to have done a tour of.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I now see that it says 'Caesar's Palace' just below the 'Stage and Sand Hotel' on On Kawara's map. That was built in the 1950s, so clearly OK did a tour of this splendid building, or suite of buildings.

This aerial shot is looking north up Las Vegas Boulevard. One can see the entrance to Caesar Palace in the middle of the shot.


Below is Street View shot of the entrance. But, as I say, it looks as if On Kawara did not go in, but instead walked around the so-called palace.


Next stop Highland Drive:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The road here has been redeveloped and expanded, so there is no Highland Drive as pictured. Not the long straight stretch going north anyway. And there is not much down the bottom of it either. Maybe On went there for something to eat. Or maybe he was just touring.


Let's check out this part of I WENT. Should be simple enough:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

There is nothing here. I explore the precise square indicated by On Kawara's red line. There may have been something here in 1973, but that's lost to time.


Many of the I WENT secrets are now lost to time. But at least by doing this exercise now, much of the detail is saved for posterity. Oh, is that what I'm doing, saving On Kawara's movements for posterity?

The day ends where it was always going to end, in the casinos. I've deliberately kept this part of the map for last.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I am going to drop us on those precise spots indicated by those red lines that hit the architecture at an angle. First on Fremont Street close to the train depot. Ready for a bit of time travel?


It's great to be here with On.

I am aware that he has three Las Vegas Date Paintings back at the motel. November 6, 1973, November 7, 1973, November 8, 1973. These were terrible, terrible days for me: sleeping, drinking and playing the slot machines at the motel. I ask On how much Konrad Fischer has been selling Date Paintings for. Ballpark figure.


"So we've got $30,000 stake money."

"We would not get $10,000 dollars per picture in Las Vegas."

"Don't worry about that. I'll phone Konrad and set it up. Since the paintings were made in Las Vegas, I'm thinking he would stump up maybe $12,000 for each one."

"You do not know Konrad very well."

"All right. We'll settle for $30,000 for the three. Let's just decide which casino to hit."

"Not here."


We move along a block, to where Fremont Street intersects Casino Center. This place is rocking. Gamblers outnumber date painters as far as the eye can see.

"Any better?" I ask.


On takes his time, checking out all the options.

I smell money. No, tell a lie, I smell sweat. Sometimes it's hard to tell them apart.


Then On makes his move. I follow in his footsteps. This is going to be awesome…


We do OK. At least On does. I recall Barbara Brown saying that in the sixties, she and Kasper Konig would invent new games in order to try and frustrate On's general ability to win at games, but that he always mastered whatever the new game's rules were, and went on to win.

Which contradicts what Garry Neill Kennedy has put on record about On Kawara and poker. He reckoned that On Kawara was playing poker for the first time up in Nova Scotia, and that the rules seemed perplexing to him. When to bet, when to call, when to raise, when to fold, and so on. Apparently, he was very cautious with each move. Well, On is also being cautious amongst the gaming tables of Las Vegas, and as a result he is adding to his stock of chips.

Three hours into it, in total, we still have the chips we started with. I have none left. I ask On if he'll lend me his. And I walk over to the roulette table that I've been studying for the last hour. I divide the chips between the squares marked 6, 7 and 8. And I wink at On. Oh, yes, I have a system that can't fail.

The dealer spins the wheel, the steel ball rattles and rolls and finally settles down at 6… 7… 8…. 9. Damn! Damn! Damn! So close. If only On had done today's Date Painting before we left the motel, we would be rolling in dosh.

On: "You owe me $30,000."

I shrug. And suggest that it will only take him three days to make that much.

On: "But it would take you forever."

There follows a discussion about the mechanics of Date Painting, which I have not mastered. How does he manage to get such a perfect finish? I ask.

"Patience. Skill. Technique. Perseverance."

"These are qualities I have."

"Sobriety. Modesty.


"An acquaintance with the infinite. A respect for the infinitesimal."

"All right, all right. Tell you what, you don't have a website, do you?"


"I'll make you one."

"I see."

"It will be great."

"I believe you."

"Did you say: 'I believe you' or 'I believe in you'?"

"It comes to the same thing."

"You're right! I'm so happy! It's a deal then." I think for a minute and then add: "Look. Do you think Konrad will accept three paintings made in San Francisco in place of the ones we've already… er… lost?"


"But you implied he was mean."

"He can be careful about money. He is always generous when it comes to art."

"I respect these qualities."

Back at the motel I get down to work. It's soon done. I think Konrad will like it. I think he'll like it a lot.

Andy Warhol image reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

The Date Painting has a subtitle:

"And Lady Stardust sang his songs, Of darkness and disgrace."


November 11, 1973. Arrive
November 12, 1973. Depart

Just managed to drag myself out of Las Vegas which is now 142 miles and two-hours-ten-minutes down the road.

Alas, out of the frying pan, into the fire.

It may also have been bad for On Kawara back in November, '73. Furnace Creek was the first stop at which he didn't make a Date Painting. He managed to pop this in the post to Konrad Fischer, though.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The picture is of 'Badwater'. One of the hottest spots in the world. I see Badwater in the middle of the day's I WENT map. On Kawara may have stopped to look at the non-water feature on the way in, on November 11. But he didn't go there again on November 12, he wasn't that perverse.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Have I got enough energy to get myself online to see whether Furnace Creek Ranch, where On Kawara stayed, still exists? I believe I do. I need to take a look round the village, because as the detail on the left edge of the map shows, this may not have been an arrival day, but it was a departure day.

So the question is, did On Kawara leave town via the bus station? Not that there will be a bus station in this one horse town. A bus stop then? Let's look around.

Oh, I see, it's a wilderness.


This can't be the way to get from Las Vegas to Los Angeles by bus. Indeed it's not. The map below shows that you would take the 15 National Route, from Vegas, not the 95 followed by the 190, which takes you north west to this hell-hole.


So at long last I've come to the conclusion that On Kawara was driving his own vehicle. He was surely with Hiroko, though it's possible that you could come to a place like this on your own. Maybe to die here.


The sign for Furnace Creek Ranch can be seen just behind that guy. That poor guy is not thinking straight. He's decided he won't invest in a bottle of sun block, not at the price it's been sold at in the general store of Furnace Creek. Besides, how hot can it be at this latitude in November? (Don't tell him it's June!)

My plan is to make another Date Painting then return to Las Vegas, flog said Date Painting, and get back on the tables. I will give my name as Konrad Fischer. Why? Well, that's him right there in the Google pic. He wants to meet up with On. His October/November '73 show of Art and Language is going well. Dusseldorf can look after itself. He wants to catch up with On, one of his two main men.


Leaving Konrad aside for moment, let's see where we are. Well, right here: Death Valley. Trouble is, I should really go to L.A. in On's slipstream. Double trouble is, I've run out of steam, slippery or otherwise. I'm going to have to stay here in this f-f-furnace for another day. (Day: what is one of those anyway? A unit of time, like a minute in the sun, or a year going around the sun.)

The plan is to resume this narrative when the sun lets up. That's it: when the heatstroke gives me a sporting chance. In the meantime, I'll hang out with the mystery man from Dusseldorf.


"Konrad walking, Konrad tired
Konrad take a little snooze
Tie him up when he's fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise.
When he wakes up, on the sea,
He's sure to think of me and you.
He'll think about paint and he'll think about glue
What a jolly German thing to do."

Blast, I shouldn't be repeating myself. Or insulting an exceptional individual from an enlightened nation, as if I was John Cleese. So let's just say 'gone fishing', and leave it at that.

Actually, it could be Joseph Beuys sitting there, having taken off his fishing jacket, pretending to be Konrad Fischer.

"Ja. I got here already."

On Kawara, Andy Warhol, Richard Long and Joseph Beuys. What a dream team of complementary super-powers. "
Artists Assemble!"

God, I really must stop.


I can't do any new research while on holiday in Findhorn in the north of Scotland, but I can keep things ticking over for my return…


I sent the link to this web page to the Fischer Gallery, and got a friendly and helpful response. The archive of the Fischer Gallery from the time of Konrad and his wife Dorothee, has been donated to a Dusseldorf Gallery, and, thanks to ZADIK this has been digitalised.


There is a section of documents concerning On Kawara, from the late 60s to the late 90s. The number of letters between Konrad Fischer and Kasper Konig emphasises how closely they worked together in bringing On Kawara to the attention of an art public.

There are no letters from On Kawara himself, whose idea of business correspondence was to baldly state his continuing existence, but there is the occasional communication from Hiroko. Nothing from 1973, but this from 1971:


The reference to Yves Lambert makes sense, as he was one of the three European gallerists to put on the first solo show of On
Kawara's work in 1971. Jost Herbig did buy Date Paintings in 1971, and received postcards from June to September. In 1973 Herbig received four I AM STILL ALIVE telegrams. One was from Santa Fe (bottom right), though the reproduction below is difficult to make out. Note that the handwriting is not On Kawara's but the clerks in the post offices.


Anyway, the point is that Hiroko played a part in making sure that Konrad Fischer was kept up to speed about the people who were expressing an interest in On Kawara's output.

Back to my holiday from all things On Kawara, my summer solstice. I'm here with Kate and Maz, two big On Kawara admirers who have egged me on to complete this:


Writing the date in sand is curiously like painting it on canvas. Perfectionism can be aspired to but never achieved.

And then the tide comes in and washes away one's work.


Which is fine, as it means that the new date has to be written again from scratch. The new day lived as if the previous had never happened. Which is how On Kawara operated. Isn't it?

On Kawara's 1973 American road-trip is continued and concluded