1977 (2)



ONE

After staying overnight (see last page) in Paris, On would have got up and out early enough on May 26 to catch a fast train to Calais, and a hovercraft or boat to Dover followed by the train to London,
where he checked into a quiet hotel on a street in West London, not that far from Paddington Station. Here is a photo of the timeless architecture of 34 Craven Hill Gardens, 44 years later:

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We are talking about Thursday, May 26, 1977. And although I don't presently have access to 'I WENT', I do have this:


May 26, 1977
Fiona Logsdail
Nicholas Logsdail
Rory Logsdail

I'm suspecting On had time to leave his lodgings and pop along to visit his hosts. Perhaps dinner at the home of the Logsdails with their 2-year-old son in attendance?

Nest day:

May 27, 1977
Nicholas Logsdail
Fiona Logsdail

Friday. A first visit to the Lisson Gallery?
The main purpose of the whole London trip was evidently to meet Nicholas Logsdail, director of the Lisson. I imagine this had been organised by Kasper Konig and Konrad Fischer who had long been plotting how to break On Kawara into the UK art market. Konrad Fischer had a link with the London dealer Anthony D'Offay whereby Fischer's artists, such as Andy Warhol, Gilbert and George and Richard Long were shown at D'Offay's gallery in Central London. But Nicholas Logsdail's stable included more conceptual artists, so perhaps it was felt that On Kawara would be a better fit there.

May 28, 1977
Heinz Nigg

Saturday. A day off from hospitality. An opportunity to meet with a friend who On had first met in Bern in 1974 and who had stayed with the Kawaras in New York for a fortnight in November,1974. Heinz was presently working in the arts in London. According to Heinz's memoir, they met on the 28th of May at the Royal Academy, then went to lunch at an Italian restaurant on Maddox Street. They talked about On Kawara’s method of making art as an existential, individual act. Heinz took the opportunity to thank On in person for the 86 'I GOT UP AT' postcards sent from New York to Heinz in Zurich in 1975. Heinz recorded his pleasure that On seemed to understand his own research into alternative media work. He was happy that On appreciated his very different way of creating, his idea of 'Community Arts'.

May 29, 1977
Fiona Logsdail
Nicholas Logsdail
Rory Logsdail
Richard Cork
Vena Cork
Stephen Willats
Felicity Willats
Adam Cork
Polly Cork
Heinz Nigg

Sunday. A day of full-on hospitality. Prominent visual arts writer, Richard Cork, was there with his wife and two children. As was artist Stephen Willats and his wife. It tis possible that On spent the 'party', if party it was, talking conceptual art with Stephen Willats. I will try and find out. Oh, and Heinz Nigg again. Perhaps he had been invited to the party by On Kawara so that he had someone he could talk to. Also possible is that the meeting was a lunch party, and On met Heinz alone in the evening.

A
bit like the Dusseldorf experience? Instead of four Fischers there were four members of the Cork family. Instead of urbane Konrad Fischer, there was equally urbane Nicholas Logsdail, product of the English public school system. However, Nicholas's uncle was Roald Dahl, who had introduced him to art. And Nicholas had gone to the Slade instead of an Oxbridge college. Perhaps there was something less international in outlook about Nicholas than what On Kawara was used to in a switched-on art dealer, but even that's not true. I imagine On felt comfortable and stimulated in this setting.

May 30, 1977
Ian Frain

Monday. A day off from hospitality. I wonder who Ian Frain was? Not an artist, I suspect. A chess player, perhaps? This is the day for which I have an 'I WENT', courtesy of the invaluable
On Kawara: Horizontality/Vericality. Really, it would have been more useful if On and Kasper had chosen to publish May 29 or May 31, when the artist may have met people somewhere grand. But On and Kasper would have had their reasons for revealing the information that they did reveal, and holding back on other data. So let's make the most of it.

I'm going to study this map in the usual way, by comparing it with a 2021 map, courtesy of Google Maps and Street View. But I also have some insight into London through having explored its streets for many years. So first let me concentrate for a few minutes. Let me simply look, and let my mind wander…

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

It is a pity that On Kawara didn't provide information as to which way he was going at any time. But he didn't. So we don't know in what order he went places. In this case though, he had to get to a transport hub, both at the beginning and the end of his day. That places On at the front of Paddington Station.

It looks as if he got on a Circle Line train and travelled two stops. The route goes through Edgware Road and then, let's say, On got out at Baker Street. He then made his way on foot down Luxborough Street and then went into a building on the north side of Paddington Street.

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Is this where he met Ian Frain? Ian Frain, taylor? Ian Frain, restauranteur? Ian Frain, hairdresser?

It seems that On Kawara then retraced his footsteps and took the Circle Line back to Paddington, maybe to have lunch and a nap. So that's part of the map dealt with: the yellow box is his home territory, close to his hotel. And the black line covers the journey to and from the mystery destination I've just explored.

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

Let's say On set off again for his afternoon/evening adventure. This time he crossed the road and got into the underground at another entrance. It looks like he got a Bakerloo line train, which went to Edgware Road, Marylebone, Baker Street, Regent's Park then Oxford Circus, where On got out. This makes some sense as the red line of On's route crosses main roads in a way that suggests the traveller must be underground. And when going through Regent's Park, the red line pays no respect to the water feature.

So that means we've got the majority of the map 'explained' so far, with just the remaining red line, in the bottom right corner of the map, to investigate.

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

On Kawara may have enjoyed walking down wide Regent Street, flanked with elegant, five-floored buildings. Just as I did in the 1990s.

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He does not seem to have taken the opportunity to pop into Anthony d'Offay's gallery, on Dering Street, as I certainly would have done, to see shows by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and so many others. But he did seem to venture into a shop on the left side of Regent's Street, before turning right into Maddox Street. Now Maddox Street is where Heinz Nigg states that he ate with On after meeting him at the Royal Academy on the Saturday, so On Kawara may be returning to this area in order to consolidate his mental map of London, which would still have been in its infancy.

He did go into a building on Maddox Street, so perhaps he ate there again, possibly towards the end of what would be a circular journey. So let's carry on for now. After Maddox Street, On walked down New Bond Street, Old Bond Street and onto Piccadilly (he may have gone the other way around, of course, but it comes to the same thing). This part of London has many traditional galleries. The Lisson was not located here, because it was newer and altogether more cutting-edge than anything that On Kawara would find in this part of town, which is hugely expensive and conservative. Christ, this is where Evelyn Waugh used to hang out!

On walked along Piccadilly until he was more or less opposite the Royal Academy.

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Then he turned round and explored Piccadilly, the other way, walking past the Ritz and stopping when he had Green Park to look at on his right.

One really could swear On was on the trail of the ghost of Evelyn Waugh. Try his club, On! If Evelyn wasn't to be found walking around the Royal Academy, or on the way to or from dining at the Ritz, he was sure to be drinking to excess at White's Club on St James's.

The point is, there are so many different Londons. As yet I can't be sure that On was introduced to a sufficient variety of them. Piccadilly is upper-class London. It must have puzzled On, citizen of a wider world, vainly looking for the London that Gilbert and George had emblazoned over the walls of Konrad Fischer's Dusseldorf gallery.

Then back to Maddox Street for
a meal? Then back to Oxford Circus to pick up the Bakerloo Line? Then back to the hotel and to sleep, perchance to dream? Something like that anyway. What I've come up with is at least consistent with the 'I WENT' map and takes account of the other information at my disposal. But there is so much I don't know.

May 31, 1977
Nicholas Logsdail
Fiona Logsdail
Bob Law
Gina Law
Michael Compton
Richard Morphet
Norman Rosenthal
Suzi Gablik
Mark Lancaster

Tuesday. Another kind of get together arranged by Nicholas Logsdail. Bob Law was a minimalist painter that the Lisson represented. Michael Compton was an art writer and a Tate curator. Richard Morphet was also a curator at the Tate. Norman Rosenthal was the head of the ICA at the time, prior to going on to head the Royal Academy. Suzi Gablik was an American artist and writer. Mark Lancaster was a British artist and set designer.

Would On Kawara have been comfortable in
this company? Was a show for On Kawara at the Tate being lined up? Certainly, that must have been a possibility given his show at the Pompidou, which no doubt the Tate curators had either been to, or knew all about. I suspect Norman Rosenthal dominated proceedings. Whenever I saw glimpses of him on TV, he was making authoritative pronouncements on matters of art and culture. I wonder if he and On managed to find a wavelength on which they could communicate with each other. I would like to ask Norman Rosenthal that question, but the possibility seems unlikely.

June 1, 1977
Nicholas Logsdail
Fiona Logsdail
Rory Logsdail
Duart McLean

Was On Kawara choosing a UK gallery? Or was the Lisson choosing On Kawara? Perhaps, both. I suspect it was decided that On Kawara's first solo show was set up for April of the following year. And that it would consist of about ten Date Paintings that On Kawara would paint between June 1977 and April 1978. Such a show, with some positive press, might be needed before a show at the Tate could be contemplated.

June 2, 1977
Ian Frain

That man again! A butcher, a baker, a candlestick-maker?

June 3, 1977
No names listed.

So that completes On's three-stage visit to Europe. Paris, Brussels and London. What complementary blasts! The highpoint, in so many ways, was Paris; Brussels was an exhibition of 20th Century American art; London was a beginning.

How incredibly absorbing. What a lot for On to digest and to look forward to.

What a lot for you, dear reader, to mull over. And the second half of the year is just picking up speed!



TWO

A day of travel to the QE2 at Southampton in readiness for the luxury cruise back to New York.

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

I do have an 'I MET' from June 4. But it's simply a few passengers that On met on the ship and unless their names crop up again, I don't think we need to record them here.

More interesting is that, as on the outward journey, the 'I WENT' suggests that On Kawara got up about a third of the way through the distance the ship travelled from midnight to midnight, which makes sense.


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

Once back in New York, all the cards went out from 140 Greene Street, the new address of the Kawaras. As I mentioned earlier, in June, the postcards went to Helen Lewis and Jurgen Wesseler.

The next image shows the I GOT UP cards for the whole of June. As seen for sale at Larkin Friedmann's stall at London's Frieze in 2021.

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

It was a friend of Jonathan Watkins, curator at Ikon, Birmingham, that took the above photo. So I got in touch with Larkin and we ended up having a Zoom. The month of cards were sent to Helen Lewis in Los Angeles, and he had bought them from her recently and was selling them individually. I have to say that it's great that some collections, like the Statue of Liberty cards sent to Dan Graham in 1970, remain together as a collection (owned by Glenstone Museum). But it seems appropriate that others disperse as widely as possible. Every household should have at least one On Kawara postcard!

Larkin had interviewed Helen about the cards. As already said, she received cards in May, June, and should have received them in July as well, but these were returned to sender. She also mentioned that she'd been sent two additional cards. This seemed odd, so Helen put me in touch with the friend of hers, an artist based in France, who she thought was in possession of the two 'additional cards'. In fact, Xavier Veilhan only has one of the cards, and that's dated 30 April, which is at the start of the series sent to Helen Lewis. What happened to the other one? He swopped it for an 'I GOT UP AT' card from 1968, and Xavier sent me this image of his two 'I GOT UP AT' cards as of November 2021:

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Thanks to Xavier Veilhan

This was interesting as I hadn't come across George Ashley's name before. Kasper Konig was sent 'card one' all through 1968, but there is scant record (outside On Kawara's estate) of who was in receipt of 'card two'. Xavier also put me in touch with David Fleiss who he'd made the swop with. David is the director of Galleria 1900-2000 in Paris. The gallery has some On Kawara postcards and so does he, personally. He is aiming for a collection that features an 'I GOT UP AT' card from each of the years 1968 to 1979, and now needs only 1971, 1975 and 1978. I said that I would mention that fact in passing on this site, so that if another collector has a card from any of these years and wants to sell it, he could contact David Fleiss via his gallery.

David supplied the image (below) of some of his postcard collection. The On Kawara 'I GOT UP AT' cards in the middle column, which are in date order, starting with the earliest at the top, were sent to George Ashley (I'm presuming), John Evans, Vito Acconci, Jean Ferrero, Giancarlo Politi, Yutama Kuriyama and Helen Lewis. A wide geographic range involving America, Japan and Europe.

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Thanks to David Fleiss.

As our exchange went on, David realised I was on the lookout for someone who had the complete 'I GOT UP AT' that was published by Michele Didier and On Kawara in 2008. I said that, for a start, I wanted to know who On Kawara had sent cards to during the Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969, and what his getting up times had been during that 5-day period. He told me that he had a set of the volumes unopened in his storage space. He is going to find out if he can open the books without compromising the packaging. I understand that this is a valuable asset, and that he wants to keep it in pristine condition. Nevertheless, he has got my hopes up.

I've come to realise that I've been particularly fortunate to get the help of the Art Gallery Ontario re 'I MET'. The fact is, 'I GOT UP AT' and 'I WENT' are effectively (though not comprehensively) made available by that essential volume,
On Kawara: Horizontality, Verticality. However, there is no equivalent partial publication of 'I MET'. Which is why I need to try and retain the co-operation of the only public library in the world that has it on its shelves. Right now I'm restraining myself from asking if Dan Graham's name crops up at all in the second half of 1977. That's too vague and unprofessional a request, and might put in jeopardy my relationship with 'the reference desk'. Mind you, that same reference desk didn't blink when I asked for the names of David Bowie, Eno and Iggy Pop to be scanned for throughout the month of September, 1976.

The work that I've just done on the single London map I had access to, suggests why not having all the 'I WENT' maps is
not the end of the world. It enabled me to focus and to get the most out of it. If I'd been spoilt for choice, courtesy of the University of Michigan's Fine Arts Library, I might have been tempted to wander from map to map, cherry-picking, and without ever getting truly stuck into any one set of data.

But I won't turn down access to the complete 'I GOT UP AT' if it's offered to me. I'm sure that, if I put my mind to it, there are several dates in each year from 1968 to 1977 that I would like to call in, and not just those heady Apollo 11 days. Oh, and I dare say if the whole of 'I WENT' suddenly becomes available to me, I will feast voraciously from it.

From August, Yvon Lambert, On Kawara's gallerist in Paris, got one of the cards, but I don't know who got the other. (Come on, David Fleiss. Rip off that shrink-wrap and be done with it!)

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

And from October 4 to December 4, sixty-two cards went to the art collector Annick Herbert in Gent, Belgium.

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

I don't know who got the other card in this period, nor who got either card in December 1977. I'll keep my antennae out for that information. (Better get yourself a pair of white gloves, David. Because I've a feeling your hands are going to be wet with excitement as you slide the 1977 volume from Michele Didier's grey wooden slipcase.)



THREE

For now, let's turn to Date Painting. Towards the end of June, On made two DPs in New York. Then four in the middle of July. And two towards the end of August. And one in September. However, the act of Date Painting picked up in the last three months of the year, with 6, 9 and 8 being produced. In other words 23 of the 37 Date Paintings created in 1977 were painted after October 18.

But before I look further into that, I must point out something else. At the age of almost 41, Hiroko gave birth to a baby boy on April 12, 1978. This implies the baby was conceived approximately nine months earlier, say July 12, 1977. But when would Hiroko have known she was pregnant? Or, rather, when would she have communicated the news to On?

As it happens, I've been watching a film set in South Korea, called
The First Lap, directed by Kim Dae-Hwan. Read about it for yourself on the panel below. Of course, instead of a mobile phone, the lead male actor should be holding an unstamped postcard

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

The woman is explaining that she is late with her period. Very late.

He asks if this has ever happened before. She tells him, no.

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

The scene ends when the man gets out of bed to get himself a glass of water.

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

But by his body language, as well as by his anxious words, he has been unable to give her the reassurance that she needs. She needs to feel that the baby, if there is one, will be born into a nurturing environment, a safe place, a family.

I'm sure that in the case of the Kawaras, there would have been no doubt about that. Hiroko and On - such brilliant individuals who had formed such a strong pair-bond - would surely make great parents. The baby would be welcomed, and it would be cared for on all levels. But would On Kawara be able to carry on his work in the totally committed way that he had been? That's where the doubt would have been.

Sometime in August, Hiroko is likely to have told On that she was late with a period, or had missed one. The Kawaras would not assume that Hiroko was going to deliver a baby, until she had carried the foetus for three months, miscarriages being about one in three for women in her age group. But by about the end of October, the Kawaras would be beginning to get their heads around the fact that they
were going to be parents.

Of the nine Date Paintings made in November, I have seen images of five of them, and four of those are red. Could it be that On chose red as his colour for the Date Paintings in response to this life-changing news? Red for joy? Red for danger? Red for 'stop the bus I want to get off'?

Now red had been one of the colours used from the beginning of the Date Paintings in 1966. But in that first year, just two out of 241 Date Paintings were red.

It was in October to December 1977 that the show of Date Paintings made in 1967 was hanging at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. The cover of the catalogue in itself shows that there were more red paintings in 1967 than in 1966. April 22, April 25, May 11 and May 12, were all red, though there were many black Date Paintings made in late April and early May - in between the red ones - that were not exhibited. So it was not several red paintings made in a row, as in November, 1977.


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Indeed, this next page from the catalogue emphasises that black still overwhelmingly predominated in 1967. All 50 paint samples on one page are black, while it looks like maybe 3 out of 50 on the facing page are red. Galleries and clients tended to prefer red Date Paintings to dark blue or black ones, hence the use of the above image on the cover of the Otis catalogue.

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

Another perspective. If you go into David Zwirner's website, there are small colour photos of all of the paintings that were in the 2012 show 'Date Paintings in New York and 136 Other Cities'. Of the 43 that were painted in New York, 34 were black, 4 were blue and 5 were red. Of the 117 painted in other cities, 115 were black and 2 were blue. So the fact that most of the Date paintings made between October, 1977 and the birth of the Kawaras' first child in April 1978, were red, would seem to be significant.

It has to be said that there is a fair sprinkling of red Date Paintings in Candida Hofer's book, which reflects the preference of collectors. But I'm still suggesting that the red in 1977 was signalling On Kawara's emotional state once they were fairly sure that Hiroko would be giving birth to a child.


As for me, I've blasted out this text in the first five days of November, 2021. Which means I've got a bit of time on my hands as I wait to hear from the following:

1) Nicholas Logsdail. Who could let the world know so much about On Kawara's first week in London, if he so chose.

2) The University of Michigan. My only likely source of getting access to any more 'I WENT' other than those reproduced in books. I have asked it for the maps of the London week, as I'm willing to commit to crawling all over them.

3) Stephen Willats. On Kawara's fellow conceptual artist who was at that May, 1977, gathering with the Logsdail family, the Cork family, and On Kawara. I've been told that he remembers the Sunday afternoon lunch party, but so far that's all I know.



FOUR

In the meantime, I might as well get some Date Painting done. As always I work in the conservatory where the light is good. First: PAINT IT RED:

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I'm finished by lunchtime. I transfer the Date Painting to what I refer to as the Red Room.

"Move along, please, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman and Sol LeWitt. Nothing psychologically intense to be seen here."

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Actually, I finished the painting in time to take an afternoon walk up a local hill. From the summit, I took a photo of Loch Marley in the realisation that today I am nothing less than a watcher on the hill.

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I posted the above on Facebook and David Michael Clarke, an artist based in France, commented that there's an Ed Ruscha meets On Kawara vibe to it. I see what he means. Perhaps I should have written 'NOTHING TO PAY UNTIL MAY' across the landscape. Or, thinking about On Kawara's position in November 1977, 'NOTHING TO PAY UNTIL APRIL'.

Next day.

I should say that the cadmium red paint costs twice as much as any of the other Liquitex colours that On Kawara was in the habit of using. So I have embarked on a series of red paintings at some expense. Still, 'NOTHING TO PAY UNTIL TOMORROW'.


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I should also confess that I've cut the number of coats of background colour from four to two by leaving out the burnt sienna. Is that sacrilege? It allows me to paint a Date Painting in the morning, go out for a walk in the afternoon, and think about this essay in the evening. And I don't think I lose intensity of background colour. Rather it has been a real pain obliterating the dark background. Red on red on white; is redder than red on red on burnt sienna on burnt sienna.

What do you think?

"Move along, please, Jackson, Mark, Andy, Bruce, Sol and Mr Dan Graham. Nothing psychologically intense to be seen here."

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Now for my walk.

Looking from the foothills of the Grampians over the valley of Strathmore to the Sidlaws. Let's just say 'watcher on the hills' and leave it at that.

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Next day.

By painting NOV.8,2021, I will have painted three consecutive Date Paintings. I haven't even done two consecutive days before. I know this is the only time I will do this. This is Peak Date Painting Day. So it makes me think about that time back in 1970 when On Kawara did at least one every day for three months.

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I think he would have known, by the time he was standing on Montparnasse Tower in May, 1977, that he was unlikely ever to get to that 1970 point of focus again. And, my hypothesis is, he certainly would have known that by November, 1977.

Anyway, let's get this third one done. It doesn't help realising that I should print off, cut to size, and stick together a postcard from the peak Dan Graham postcard period, just to help me on my way.


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Actually, on March 18, 1970, when On Kawara made three Date Paintings, his getting up time was 1.57P.M. This needs properly thinking through.

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Surely it implies that he started the first of the three DPs shortly after midnight and didn't go to bed until he'd finished it. Say at 6A.M. for argument's sake. Then, very nearly eight hours later, he GOT UP and began his second phase of the day, in which he stamped a postcard for Dan with his getting up time, and made two more Date Paintings.

Who was in charge of the passing of time? On Kawara was in charge.

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Well, he was still in charge as he stood on top of Montparnasse Tower. But by November, 1977 had he not lost control?

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Below are details from the neatly composed photographs in Candida Hofer's book:

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In 2005, the above three Date Paintings were held in collections in Zurich, Geneva and Bern. That's an all-Swiss outcome. I wonder what accounts for that? Maybe it was something to do with the Rolf Preisig show held in Basel in 1977, though the paintings shown there were from 1976.

And below is
NOV. 23,1977, flaming in its redness, being rescued from a fire at Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art.

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The use of cadmium red continued into December. Of the eight December Date Paintings, I've seen reproductions of four, and three of those are red. Ongoing turmoil on Greene Street?

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DEC.12,1977 was black. Perhaps On had pulled himself together that day. I don't know about DEC.13 or DEC.19, as I haven't seen reproductions. But I do know about DEC. 20:

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

Actually, another possibility presents itself. DEC.20,1977 is one of the paintings that was part of the Lisson show in 1978. Below is the full list of ten 1977 paintings:

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

I don't know what colour November 7 was, but November 8, 14 and 18 were all red. I don't know what colour December 23 was, but December 8 and 20 were red. Five of the eight paintings I've seen reproductions of from the show were red. Perhaps Nicholas Logsdail had whispered into On Kawara's ear during that Sunday lunch with the Corks' and the Willats' that on the whole his clients liked a splash of colour. Perhaps he even put it to the vote amongst the children present for the Sunday lunch:

Nicholas Logsdail: "Come on kids. What's it to be for my gallery, red or black Date Paintings?"

Rory, Polly and Adam:
"RED!!!"

Time for the final painting of the year. As 1977 was about to roll into 1978. Red for joy? Red for "Help me, Dan."? Red for "As you requested, Mr Logsdail."?

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

First bald/bespectacled man: "You are going to be a father."

Second bald/bespectacled man: "Am I going to be
a father?"

On Kawara's age in days would have been stated in the catalogue produced in 1977 for the show at Otis Art Institute, California, a rare book which I haven't seen. But actually, it has to be said, on December 24, 1977, On Kawara turned 45 years old.

Third bald/bespectacled man (musing to himself): 'A child is for for father. I mean, forever.'



FIVE

I'll just add that a few days later I can say that three hairless babies would seem to have found their bed. I mean the three would seem to have have bedded down beautifully:

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