1975 (1)



INTRO

There is only one way to begin this page…

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

Is On Kawara in New York? Of course not. The above is a bog standard hotel bedroom from the 1970s. But to explain where he and the photographer (presumably Hiroko) are, it is necessary to step back briefly into 1974.

On December 21, 1974, On Kawara was still in New York, because he did a Date Painting that day and his Journal lists it under 'NewYork'. The next painting was in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 24. Could he and Hiroko have driven there in two days? According to Google it takes 14 hours to cover the 880 miles, so that would be just possible. We need to consider the whole trip to see if that gives more clues as to whether it was done by road or by air.

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Basically, it's an exploration of the Deep South. I would suggest the Kawaras flew to Atlanta and then hired a car to get them to New Orleans, Houston, Oklahoma, Dallas and Jackson. They may even have returned the vehicle to Atlanta and flown back from there, rather than Jackson. Though the possibility remains that they drove all the way from New York and all the way back. Let me check the letter that Hiroko wrote to the director of the Kunsthalle, Bern on Feb 3, 1975. 'Texas was vast and warm. We enjoyed our travel.' No clues there, then. Though I think the word 'vast' would come from having driven through it rather than flown over it.

So that's where the photo of the back of On Kawara was taken, in one of those cities marked on the above map. We'll get to it soon enough.


PART ONE: JANUARY (and December, 1974)

STOP 1: ATLANTA, GEORGIA

December 23, 1974. Arrive by plane?
December 24, 1974. Date Paint
December 25, 1974. Date Paint.
December 26, 1973. Leave by car.

This was not the Kawaras first stay in Atlanta. Therefore neither the postcards, the I WENT map, or the Date Paintings, are reproduced in my two main sources of illustrations. That's the books
Date Paintings in 89 Citiies and On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality.


STOP 2: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

December 26, 1974. Arrive by car.
December 27, 1974. Date Paint
December 28, 1974. Date Paint.
December 29, 1974. Leave by car.

This is the first time that On Kawara has visited New Orleans, so I have some data both available to me and to share…

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


The postcards were going to John Baldessari during this trip, but I don't feel like riffing off that. Not yet, anyway. Let's see where the Kawaras went on the 27th.

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


There is no longer a hotel at 1725 Tulane Avenue. The building there is now the University Medical Centre of New Orleans. It looks as if they went for a drive along Tulane Avenue, then changed their mind and came back to the middle of town. Which they would have walked around, stopping in several places, perhaps to eat or to be entertained.

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But it wasn't here that On Kawara was photographed in his hotel room. So let's move on to Houston, where the photo was taken. Oh, but hang on. The Date Painting made on December 28 is accompanied by an interesting newspaper clipping.

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

Maybe it's just the first line in the cartoon strip that caught On Kawara's attention: "Come on baby, I wasn't born Tuesday." Though this particular painting is subtitled "Saturday". In the strip, a man is suggesting that the print he'd been given was not enough, he needs the source of the print, which is a film. She (in the middle frame) is about to say something when her male companion cuts in, and says that after the print was made she put the film in the mail. Perhaps this was what got the Kawaras playing with the idea of taking photos. There are more to come. Not many, but a precious few.




STOP 3: HOUSTON, TEXAS

December 29, 1974. Arrive by car.
December 30, 1974. Date Paint
December 31, 1974. Explore
January 1, 1975. Date Paint.
January 2, 1975. Rest?
January 3, 1975 Leave by car.

The postcard below is from
On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality. However, the wrong picture has been put beside the correct message. In other words, ignore the picture side.

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


Let us find 2100 Memorial Drive, which is the hotel room in which Hiroko took On's photo. Funnily enough there is no red dot on the I WENT map to indicate where On Kawara woke up on December 31.

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


Memorial Drive is in the top section of the map. As shown by the red tack on this Google Map.

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Enlarging the top part of the I WENT for December 31, we see that On Kawara's route takes in the hotel, on the left edge of the red route, but there is no customary red dot. I'm assuming this is a mistake on the artist's part, though it's possible that he stayed up all night. Staying up all night the night before New Year's eve? That doesn't seem likely.

It's Ann Wheeler in
On Kawara: SILENCE, who tells us that the red dot on an I WENT indicates where On Kawara woke up in any 24-hour period, and where he was when he stamped his getting up time on a postcard.

I'm just wondering if, alternatively, the red dot might indicate where the artist went to sleep. Because it would make sense that On didn't go to sleep on December 31, because at midnight he might have been still up bringing in the New Year. But surely that doesn't make sense as there would be many other days where On was still awake at midnight, and many I WENT Maps without red dots. Whereas I'm not aware of any.

No, it makes sense that the red dot is where On Kawara woke up in the 24-hour period. And there is none for December 31, 1974.

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


But let's continue with our analysis of December 31, because something worth following up did happen that day. The bottom half of the day's red route shows that he visited a few places in one neighbourhood.

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


This Google Map confirms that On went into The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the triangular space just above the oval fountain, and alongside the word 'BAYARD' in the above map. The permanent collection amounted to 12,000 items in 1970, so there would have been plenty to see. But it had been in 1974 that Audrey Jones Beck had donated her collection of 50 Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings to the museum. So perhaps On and Hiroko took the opportunity to gaze on the likes of this Japanese-influenced Van Gogh masterpiece:

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Vincent Van Gogh, The Rocks, 1888


On the 2021 Google map below (where you can again see the Museum of Fine Arts) I've marked with a red tack 5120 Bayard Lane. The Kawaras also visited this, the address of the Cusack Gallery. It had opened in 1973 and had shown work by On's friend, Sol Le Witt.

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By the end of January, 1975, Barbara Cusack, the director, was receiving one of On Kawara's daily postcards (along with John Baldessari still). So the chances are they met on December 31. Though an I MET list would be needed to confirm this.

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

Who was Barbara Cusack? She introduces herself here:

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She is now called Barbara Hill and runs a company that creates minimal interiors for houses in Texas. I have just emailed her, and eagerly await a response.

But now we are back at our starting point. This:

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

It would seem that the painting is near completion. The artist has either just put his brush down or is about to pick it up. The delicate fingers are captured in an intriguing way in the mirror.

Notice that the painting is propped up to allow for more finely tuned work. It is a size B painting, as was the painting whose creation was documented in some detail by the book,
JUNE 9,1991. The photos in that book were taken face on, but I now see that the painting was propped up, at least from the end of the pencil work, but very possibly throughout that as well.

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

Indeed, this shot of a September 1994 painting shows that the canvas was tilted while the artist drew the characters in pencil.

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

On January 1, 1975, On Kawara was staying at the Holiday Inn at 2100 Memorial Drive, Houston. Here is photo of the building. Imagine for yourself whereabouts in the high-rise sat the man painting the date.

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From the web there is this well-researched piece, though the first para is not that clear:

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I suspect that when the Kawaras were staying there, the hotel would have been in its beige era. In which case it would have looked like this:

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

I'm still trying to picture where in the building On Kawara was sitting. Pointless really, as the artist was oblivious to all except his self-appointed task. Although he sub-titled the work 'Wednesday', I think of it as '2100 Memorial Drive'. I wonder where it is now. I'll look out for reproductions.

Hang on, same day response from Barbara Cusack, as was:

'hello duncan - of course i remember the visit by the kawaras very well - i showed the one million year book at my gallery - cusack gallery - on was fascinated that i had a show (one of the few places in the us where it was shown) - i had to make arrangements to show it thru his agent as he did not receive calls or inquiries - BUT then i answered the phone and the voice said ‘this is on kawara - i had to come see where my one million year book is being shown' - i was disappointed when the on kawara book was published a couple of years ago that there was no mention of my gallery and his show…'

According to On Kawara's full CV available from David Zwirner's website, the Cusack Gallery showed the Million Years book in 1974. So On must have been looking at the space in retrospect.

'…i asked him where they were staying and he said the holiday inn where we always stay because they all look alike so it is familiar to us - they visited the gallery (where i also lived with four children) but we did not attend a party - most houstonians had never heard of him which was true of most of the incredible artists that i showed in the early 70s - thank you for your interest - kindly barbara'

I've shot another email off to Barbara, thanking her for this information, but in the meantime I must move on.



STOP 4: OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA


January 3, 1975. Arrive.
January 4, 1975. Date Paint.
January 5, 1975 Leave.

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

'Dear John, I have come to the Deep South where I am enjoying one Holiday Inn after another. Surrounded by Oklahomen and Oklahowomen.'

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

The I WENT below suggests that the Kawaras spent part of January 4 going round the new shopping mall, which was built in 1966. It's still there in 2021.


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

Luckily, I don't have too. And it's off to the next stop.



STOP 5: DALLAS, TEXAS


January 5, 1975. Arrive.
January 6, 1975. Date Paint.
January 7, 1975. Date Paint.
January 8, 1975. Date Paint.
January 9, 1975. Leave.


I don't expect to have much data about Dallas, because the Kawaras had been here before, at the end of December, 1973. On the way back to New York at the end of the big east-west-east trip. However, no Date Painting was done on that occasion. Whereas three were made this time around, the first of them being reproduced in Date Paintings in 89 Cities

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

The last time the Kawaras stayed at the Holiday Inn at 1015 Elm Street. So I dare say they stayed there again. But I'll leave it at that, cos I'm rather keen to get to the next stop on this trip.



STOP 6: JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI


January 9, 1975. Arrive.
January 10, 1975. Date Paint.
January 11, 1975. Explore.

And here's why I was keen to get here. Hiroko took another photograph. The postcard sent to John Baldessari on Jan 11, confirms that this is indeed another Holiday Inn. But the decor is different. For now, I'll just point out that the Kawaras are preferring to sleep in single beds rather than a double.

Also, that's an ashtray to the left of the Date Painting.

Also, the painting would seem to have been done on the flat. The Journal tells us that it's size A, and so perhaps these didn't need to be tilted towards the artist. Certainly, I paint my size A Dates flat on the desk, though that doesn't prove anything.

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

I picture On in high spirits having completed his allotted task. He picks up the phone and speaks to the Holiday Inn receptionist. He asks her what the date is. She tells him. He thanks her and hangs up. Both On and Hiroko burst out laughing.

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

Below is that aforementioned postcard to John Baldessari, giving the address where On painted JAN.10,1975.

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

So let's find 2375 North State Street, Jackson, on Google.

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The site is still a hotel. But it's not under the franchise of Holiday Inn any more. It's now a Cabot Lodge

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I've taken the aerial shot (below) to try and see what the building may have looked like in the 1970s.

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What I mean is, there used to be a Holiday Inn in Jackson that looked like the one pictured below. That fact that this photo was made into a postcard suggests corporate pride. And why not? Acres of space just off the highway. Stretch those legs in the walk from car to reception. Find your ground floor room and then flake out in quasi-rural surrounds. What could be more American?

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Highway 51 is a prominent road, and the above classic Holiday Inn was not, in fact, on the site that the Kawaras stayed in. I don't seem able to find any photos of the Holiday Inn. Here is the Cabot Lodge as far back as Google Maps archive goes here, which is to 2006. When it was still a Cabot Lodge.

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It's a filthy night. So let's check in to the room that the Kawaras occupied and try and recover from our long journey. The desk is interesting.

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

I've been able to study the image in On Kawara: SILENCE and can report as follows. From left to right, the words on the panel inset into the desk read as follows: 'Background Music', 'Message at Desk' and 'Remote TV Control'. Under 'Remote TV Control' the buttons are for 'On - Select - Off' and 'Volume'.

Shall we have some background music as we consider the artist's studio? I twist the knob and find I'm listening to 'America' by Simon and Garfunkel. The song is from the 60s, but it became widely popular when released on
Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits in 1973. Playing as background music in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1975, sounds about right.

Let us listen, as perhaps On Kawara listened as Hiroko lay on her bed.

"Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together.
I've got some real estate here in my bag."
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies,
And walked off to look for America.

"Hiroko", I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now."
It took me four days to hitch-hike from Sag-in-aw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus.
Playing games with the faces.
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy.
I said "Be careful, his bow-tie is really a camera.”

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat."
"We smoked the last one an hour ago."
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine.
And the moon rose over an o-pen field.

"Hiroko, I'm lost", I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
"I'm empty and aching and I don't know why."
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike,
They've all come to look for America.
All come to look for America…
All come to look for America…'

Oh God, this is steering me into deep waters. That Simon and Garfunkel record has associations that I may get a chance to explore in the second road trip of the Kawaras year. But first back to New York with On and Hiroko.



PART TWO: FEBRUARY TO AUGUST

There isn't much information about these months in books about On Kawara. The times when he was on the move are far better represented, which makes sense. Variety being the spice of life.

So what
do I know? I know about the Date Paintings thanks to the Journal. So let's summarise the artist's New York production:

Four, all size B, in February. Eight, all size A or B, in March. Six, all size A or B in April. Nine, all size B, except one size A, in May. Eleven, all size B, in June. Nine, all size B, in July. And sixteen, all size B, except the last two, which were size A, in August. That's sixty-three DPs in seven months, being an average of 9 per month. Only one of them crops up in Candida Hofer's book, and that makes it onto the cover…

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

What about the postcards? John Baldessari got them until March. Barbara Cusack tells me she received 64 in all, every one of them from 24 E. 22nd Street. According to her brief second note only 4 or 5 showed a GOT UP time after noon. Which still seems a lot of late rising to me. In May and June, Barbara Reise was receiving them…

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

She was an art critic, based in London at the time. From the above image, her cards also seem to have emanated from 24 E. 22nd Street, which seemed to emerge as the On Kawara address in 1974, and was his postal address as far as Kunsthalle Bern was concerned.

Heinz Nigg, resident in Europe, received cards 'over several months'. The only one I have a poor reproduction of is this one:

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

Heinz Nigg seems like a complicated character. He studied history, political science and social anthropology. In 1974, he traveled to New York as assistant of Johannes Gachnang, director of the Kunsthalle Bern, and it was then he came in contact with On Kawara. Later he did ethnographic work and took an interest in the dissemination of video away from institutions. In 2017 he curated 'Rebel Video' for the Swiss National Museum, an exhibition about the alternative video movements of the 1970s and 1980s in Switzerland and the UK. Rebel Video also exists as a book. He is only 71; I will try and make contact with him via his website.

I have access to no I MET for February to August 1975. So I will drop Ansell Bray another line in order to see if he has any recollections of this seven-month period. And the only readable I WENT I've come across, is this for August:

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

Actually, I can't make out much detail. But it does tell me that the Kawaras were still visiting Roscoe, presumably for fishing breaks.

Is that enough of
a breather? Because September is coming along and the Kawaras are itching to be back on the road. And I am too. However, I will start a new page in order to do justice to this year of 1975.

I'm going straight to it, and
you can as well, dear reader.


Postscript

Barbara Hill has kindly sent me a few photos taken by a friend of hers at the 'On Kawara: SILENCE' show at the Guggenheim in 2014/15. Below is the 'I MET' for January 2, 1975, when the Kawaras were in Houston, Texas. So as well as visiting the Cusack Gallery on December 31, the Kawaras called in again a couple of days later. Two of Barbara's daughters and two gallery assistants complete the list.

A million years past; a single day in 1975…

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