This is a particularly complex year in the development On Kawara's life and practice. I've divided it into four periods and concentrated on a different pattern in each of them. Because you, the dear reader, has got to have connections, the more striking the better. You can't be expected to thrive on raw facts alone. A mile-high pile of 'I MET' lists or 'I GOT UP' cards or Date Paintings, or all three, doth not a sublime, illustrated, literary essay make.

So what's coming up is this:

1) A road-trip month (to the Deep South; postcards principally from Holiday Inns to John Baldessari).

2) Seven months in New York (reading the New York Times in conjunction with a spurt in Date Painting; and the purchase of three SoHo buildings by a co-operative that included several Japanese-American artists, including On Kawara.)

3) A second road-trip month (to the Great Lakes; postcards from Holiday Inns to Frank Donegan, picture-sides unknown).

4) Three more months in New York (visiting but not yet living in the purchased property at 140 Greene Street and being taken on by a top-notch New York gallery which had just set up next door at 142 Greene Street).

Is there an overriding shape to this year? Nope. Just two fascinating road-trips and a big development on the New York front, On and Hiroko's buying of the sixth floor loft. But hang on a minute, I've just seen a way that a bit of fact-based fiction can pull the various strands together. Leave it with me to make the most of in all of our interests.



At the turn of the year, On and Hiroko were in the middle of a road-trip, an exploration of the Deep South. When I made the map below, using info about where Date Paintings were made, it seemed that they might have begun the trip with a flight to Atlanta, which is much too far from New York to be driven in one day.


But now that I've seen all the 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET' I realise that they drove to Richmond, Virginia, to start things off, it's just that On Kawara didn't get started with his Date Painting there. They drove all the way to Texas and back before the end of January, 1975. 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.'

Let's resume the narrative with On and Hiroko in the Deep South…


January 1, 1975. Date Paint.
January 2, 1975. Cusack Gallery
January 3, 1975 Leave by car.

qmgslw10ql23qcdykt8lzw_thumb_d270 Hiroko Hiraoka. Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The above is a bog standard hotel bedroom from the 1970s that happens to be in Houston, Texas. That's where the photo of the back of On Kawara was taken, in the most southern city of Texas that's marked on the above map. The previous day, On and Hiroko had been to the Gallery of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Barbara Cusack Gallery, and he'd sent a postcard to John Baldessari in California. It's that last detail that I'm going to have fun with, but not just yet.

Of course, it has to be emphasised that Houston is where NASA's ground control was situated. Maybe that's why On allowed or even encouraged Hiroko to take his photograph.

Ground Control to Major On: "Take your protein pills and put your helmet on."

Can I be sure Hiroko took the photo? Turning to 'I MET':

JAN. 1, 1975

You would have thought that On and Hiroko really would have visited the NASA Visitor Centre in Johnson Space Center Building 2 while in Houston. That's in the south east quadrant of the city. But I've looked at all the 'I WENT' maps and I don't think they did go there.

Barbara Hill (Cusack) has kindly sent me a few photos of 'I MET' lists taken by a friend of hers at the 'On Kawara: SILENCE' show at the Guggenheim in 2015. These tell me that as well as visiting the Cusack Gallery on December 31, the Kawaras called in again a couple of days later. I'm told that two of Barbara's daughters, Claire and Pud, and two gallery assistants, Terry and Vicky, complete the 'I MET' list for January 2, 1975, that starts with Hiroko's name and includes Barbara's.


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

l7ixk9ijsriel9rliykdmq_thumb_d987 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

And so we must give due weight to the name John Baldessari. He was born in California and remained loyal to it. But he did travel a lot, and was often in New York. So On and he may have met up thereIn any case, the connections between JB and OK are irresistible. They were both near the top of the Conceptual Art ladder. But their work was very different. For Baldessari the idea had replaced the actual work. Whereas for Kawara idea and work were irrevocably entwined. For Baldessari, one idea led to another and another and another. Whereas for Kawara, the original idea was the one that he stuck close to, and kept expanding, as it was not possible (I have come to think) to have a better one.

Both had received invitations to the Nova Scotia School of Art in Halifax, Canada. At Kasper König's invitation, On Kawara had visited the place in 1973, a year after One Million Years had been shown there. As we know, Baldessari was asked to go there in 1971, but didn't because there was no money in it. However, he sent instructions that the students could scrawl, 'I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art' over the gallery walls in his name. This they did. And a print was produced in the lithography department. Perhaps 'I Will Not Make Any More Free Art' would have been more to the point.

John Baldessari was also one of the artists that Konrad Fischer repeatedly invited to Dusseldorf. In 1971 - the same year that Kawara's One Million Years was shown there - Konrad Fischer had printed a booklet of Baldessari's, of which much more soon. And in 1973 John Baldessari was given his second show there. I wonder if 'I will not make any more boring art' scrawled all over the gallery walls would have worked for Konrad Fischer. Probably not, as that's not particularly commodifiable. On the other hand, there was always the lithograph option. I think a more basic problem would be that 'I will not make any more boring art' went without saying if you were showing at Konrad Fischer's place.

In other words, 'boring' depends on context. 'Million Years Past' was boring to Nova Scotia students. 'I will not make any more boring art' would not have floated Konrad Fischer's boat in Dusseldorf. I will break off here. But we're just getting started with John Baldessari.


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

On Kawara had been here before, at the end of December, 1973, returning to New York at the end of the big east-west-east trip. However, no Date Painting was done on that earlier occasion. Whereas three Dates were made this time around, the first of them being reproduced in Date Paintings in 89 Cities. On Kawara used the Dallas Times Herald's front page to line the Date Painting's box. But it was the next day's Dallas Morning News that provided the clippings that went in the 'I READ' file for January 6. The largest of these was a report on 100 South Vietnamese troops that had gone missing following the bombing of a bunker by the Viet Cong.

A year before, the Kawaras stayed at the Holiday Inn at 1015 Elm Street. And they did so again, as five of the following 'I GOT UP' cards show. Sorry for the low quality reproduction:


John Baldessari was born in 1932. The same year as On Kawara. In 1975 they were both 42, give or take a single year. I think they would have talked, as people do, of what they had in common. For instance, of Sol LeWitt, a drawing of whose, I've discovered, hung like a crucifix over Baldessari's bed. What follows is a fictional scene, but it's based on detailed research.

On Kawara produces his copy of a very slim book, that's designed to be hung as a calendar, with a hole in the pages so that a nail can be knocked through it into a wall. The book/calendar is called Ingres and other Parables, and was published by Konrad Fischer on the occasion of Baldessari's first show in Dusseldorf back in October, 1971.

On nails it to the wall of his and Hiroko's Holiday Inn room, open at the one-page story called 'Ingres'.

On: "I would prefer it if you read."

Hiroko: "As you wish. Here goes, then."

On: "Slowly."

Hiroko: "This is a story of a little known painting of Ingres. Its first owner took good care of it, but as things go he eventually had to sell it."

On: "Oh, dear."

Hiroko: "Are you thinking of one of your own paintings?"

On: "No, I am thinking of the Ingres. Please continue."

Hiroko: "Succeeding owners were not so cautious about its welfare and did not take as good care of it as the first owner. That is, the second owner let the painting’s condition slip a bit. Maybe it all began by letting it hang crookedly on the wall, not dusting it, maybe it fell on the floor a few times when somebody slammed the door too hard. Anyway, the third owner received the Ingres with some scratches (not really tears) and the canvas buckled in one corner, paint fading here and there."

On: "Now I am thinking of one of my Date Paintings. Give me a second to clear my mind."

Hiroko: "Sure."

On: "Thank-you. Please resume."

Hiroko: "Owners that followed had it retouched and so on, but the repairs never matched and the decline had begun. The painting looked pretty sad. But what was important was the documentation - the idea of Ingres; not the substance. And the records were always well-kept. A clear lineage, a good geneology. It was an Ingres certainly, even though the painting by this time was not much. The other day it was auctioned off. Time had not been kind to the Ingres. All that was left was one nail. Maybe the nail was of the original, maybe it was used in repairs, or maybe Ingres himself had used it to hang the painting. It was all of the Ingres that remained. In fact, it was believed to be the only Ingres ever offered in public sale. Moral: if you have the idea in your head, the work is as good as done."

On: "I see."

Hiroko: "What do you see?"

On: "I see that the time scale is ridiculous. Ingres painted in the Nineteenth Century. It is inconceivable that a professionally made painting could be reduced to a single nail in that time."

Hiroko: "Anything else?"

On: "The nail puts me in mind of the 'true cross' on which John's Christ was crucified. But I don't think he would want me to go there."

Hiroko: "I think John did want Christ's cross to be referenced, which maybe caused him to speed up the decline of the Ingres. Anything else?"

On: "Of course, there is something else. I have to disagree with the moral of the story. I paint my pictures over and over and over again for a reason. As you know, the process is important. Like meditation, if you will. But more than that, the painting has to be seen in the world, by other people, not just in my head by myself. Besides, our heads are so poor at visualising. Can you see clearly the features of your own mother?"

Hiroko: "I'd like to think so."

On: "You need to prove it by making a drawing of her. All images need to be proved by being realised on paper and canvas. All ideas need to be made manifest in the world. I have the idea to send a postcard to two people every day of my adult life, and right now John Baldessari is one of these people. Fine. Easy to understand. But worthless if it stops there. I have to obtain the cards, I have to stamp the cards, I have to send them off. Every single day. Day after day. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. In this way, the idea has life. The idea lives only through being given form in the real world. I am so glad John did not just have the idea of this book, but that he typed it out and persuaded Konrad to publish it in the form that passes between our hands and through our eyes today."

Hiroko: "Would you like me to read another parable?"

On: "In a day or two."

Hiroko removes the calendar from the wall and takes the nail into her hand.


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

In Jackson, Hiroko took another photograph in their Holiday Inn. But the decor was different. For now, I'll just point out that the Kawaras are sleeping in single beds rather than a double. Also, there is an ashtray to the left of the Date Painting. In addition, the painting would seem to have been done on a flat surface. The Journal tells us that it's a size A, and so perhaps these didn't need to be tilted towards the artist, as the size B was that was painted on January 1.

j0025clenlqrtaf4ekiqffy0025a_thumb_d26f 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 mobile 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 he and Hiroko lay on their beds. Many people know the words and the tune. Perhaps you do, dear reader. I give you the words, please supply your own tune:

"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 open field."

The next day was January 10. On Date Painted while Hiroko went out to explore. Hours later, in my mind's eye, Hiroko returned with cigarettes and a local paper. On was in high spirits having completed his Date. He picked up the phone and spoke to the Holiday Inn receptionist. He asked her what the date was. She told him. He thanked her and hung up. Both On and Hiroko burst out laughing. And the moon rose over an open field.

rkrtf013qycz0e95oq4njq_thumb_d974 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The most prominent headline from the two pages of clipping filed in 'I READ' for the above date reads: 'To Some, A Tragedy, For Others A Miracle'. Alas, another article is folded over it, so I'm guessing about the 'To' and the 'For'. It could just as easily read 'For Some A Tragedy, To Others A Miracle'.

Below is the totality of what On Kawara painted in January, 1975:


But let's stay in Jackson for a moment. Below is a postcard to John Baldessari, giving the address where On painted JAN.10,1975.

3l367b2tq1wy6asyhdonqa_thumb_d93c Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

An iconic item. Glorious in its self-referentiality. The sign for the petrol station being an essential part of the package. No road-trip without gas.

And next up is the postcard that was sent to John Baldessari on January 13. It was posted from Charlotte, North Carolina. And if you check the map near the beginning of this chapter, you'll see that this is well on the way back to New York.


Sorry about the poor quality illustration. It's another Holiday Inn though. Another place for On, in lieu of making a Date Painting, to pin Ingres and other Parables to the wallpapered wall, and for Hiroko to say aloud.

Hiroko: "This one is called 'The Neon Story'."

On: "Indeed."

Hiroko: "Once there was an unknown sculptor who was an early worker in neon."

On: "I wonder who that would be." (On may be alluding to Dan Flavin.)

Hiroko: "The director of a small college gallery who heard him speak of his efforts with this material asked to see his work. Upon seeing the neon sculpture, the director arranged to show the piece in the gallery. Press announcements were mailed out. On the basis of the announcements, the following occurred. First, one of America's largest newspapers asked for colour photographs to run in the Sunday edition. Second, one of America's largest museums wanted to give a new-talent award to the sculptor. Third, the director of a major gallery in one of America's largest cities offered him a one-man show. No one had seen any of the artist's work but all had read the press announcement. Moral: Never underestimate the value of an idea."

On: "Do you know what I'm thinking?"

Hiroko: "Kasper?"

On: "Uh-huh. His getting Johanne at Bern to show my work before he had seen any of it."

Hiroko: "True."

On: "But Kasper had seen it. He had seen it for the first time in the Manhattan loft in 1966. Hundreds of Date Paintings lining the massive space."

Hiroko: "An unforgettable spectacle."

On: "Moral. Never underestimate an idea, for sure. But be certain to manifest the idea in as unforgettable a way as possible. Someone has to see and touch the idea in the real world."

Back in New York, 'normal' life would have been resumed at 24 East 22nd Strret, the large flat taken over from the Naraharas in 1974. By the time On was Date Painting (Jan. 28 and 29) the first postcard was still going to John Baldessari, with the second going to Barbara Cusack.

bfu8nls8ta002b68gd0025nrov6w_thumb_d951 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Oh, to have been the recipient of an On Kawara postcard in one of the road-trip years. Better still. Oh, to have been the recipient of an On Kawara postcard in a road-trip year when he was recuperating in New York. Playing ping-pong with Hiroko. The loser having to go down from the seventh floor to the street to post the days 'I GOT UP' cards and buy the day's cigarettes. And the Moon rose over a rented Manhattan loft.



There wasn't much information about these seven months in books about On Kawara when I first drafted this chapter. The times when On Kawara was on the move are far better represented in catalogues, which makes sense.

So what did I know? I knew about the Date Paintings thanks to the Journal. So let's summarise the artist's New York production and add some recently published 'I READ' to the picture:

Four Dates, all size B, were made in February. Below are the two 'I READ' Pages for February 12.


Note how Kawara has deleted some of the cutting on the left page with red parallel lines, so that it's only the photo of Kissinger in the article that he wants to signal that he has read. This is strange as the usual thing was to clip the articles that he wanted to include. In other words, scissors did the editing. The second page is almost all about snowfall, the exception being the small cutting in the final column.

Eight Dates, all size A or B, were made in March. Below are the two 'I READ' pages that correspond to MAR, 1, 1975:


The above makes one wonder to what extent On Kawara was considering these pages as visual art. The first column on the left-hand page consists of three images folded together. There is a woman's upside down face in both the left and the right pages. And the final column is an article that has been folded back on itself to obliterate the article and to underline the words 'Pirate Loot'. On could have folded it the other way if he wanted to put emphasis on the article itself, which a red line around its edge suggests he did.

Six Dates, all size A or B, were made in April. The 'I READ' double-page below shows, on the left, the second page used for APR. 1, 1975 and on the right the only page of 'I READ' for APR.14, 1975. The info along the top includes what number of Date they are in the year (21 and 22) and what size they are (B and A, respectively).


Three articles on the left page, one of which had to be folded in on itself to fit onto the page. And possibly just one article on Vietnam on the right-hand page, with folding again needed in order for the material to fit onto the page (which was then put in a transparent sleeve).

(Is this in danger of getting boring? Stick with it, dear reader, the pace soon picks up. We just have to get through May, June, July and August first!

Nine Dates, all size B, except one size A, were made in May. Below is 'I READ' for MAY 8, 1975 and MAY 11, 1975.


The left-hand page is simple in that is shows four articles, all of them outlined in red ink, with no overlap between the articles and no folding needed. The right-hand page is not only a very important story - a balloon announcing the end of the war in Vietnam - it is more complicated in that the photograph has been cut out and placed on top of the three separately cut out columns of the story itself. Then there is a separate but related story in the fourth column of the right-hand page.

Eleven Dates, all size B, were made in June. Below is 'I READ" for JUNE 13, 1975 and JUNE 19, 1975.


The left page contains three clippings, the main story about inflation in the UK obliterating part of the second story about a solicitor being hurt in a bombing in Algeria. The small third story is about radio silence in Vietnam. The right page contains two clippings about equal rights for women, one from the front page of the New York Times and then the same story from page 3 of the same paper, along with an accompanying photo taken in Mexico City where the conference took place.

Nine Dates, all size B, were made in July. Below is 'I READ' for JULY 29, 1975. It's a left-hand page, the previous right-hand page also applying to this Date.


President Ford visiting Auschwitz. Page 1 and page 9 from the New York Times.

And sixteen Dates, all size B, except the last two, which were size A, were made in August. Below is the second of two pages in 'I READ' concerning AUG. 8, 1975.


It's just a single story with a prominent photo.

That's sixty-three Date Paintings in seven months, being an average of nine per month, all either size A or B. And a fair amount of reading of The New York Times. So that's us having gone once - quickly - through the seven-month period spent in New York from February to August. But we're going to have to go through it again, as we focus on another aspect of On Kawara's life. Hopefully, something a lot more interesting for me to write and you to read…

1975 was the year that Nobu Fukui was referring to when he wrote to me: 'I helped to organise a three-building co-op on Greene St. and urged all my friends to find, borrow or steal $15,000 to buy a great loft. On and Hiroko, Aoki and O'Connor, and other friends bought in. I bought the 2nd floor at 140 Greene St. and On and Hiroko bought the 6th floor in the building.'

This is confirmed by oral interviews with Aoki (as he is known) and 'O'Connor' (Teresa) that can be found online. Though Aoki mentions that it was Peter Gee, an Englishman, who set up the co-operative. Aoki paid $18,000, about a year's salary (that would be Teresa's income, she being a professor of English, he being, by his own account, a hippy), for a massive floor at the top of 132 Greene Street. He and Teresa didn't even need to take out a mortgage. I expect that property would be worth about a thousand times more now ($18,000,000), though that is purely a guess. He and Teresa still live there. Hiroko still lives on the sixth floor at 140 Greene Street with members of her family. Nobu had to sell his second floor flat at 140 Greene Street when he and Miyuki divorced in 1979, a double loss that must have hit him hard.

However, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Nobu was very much involved in the 1975 property transaction. On met him a few times in the first three months of the year, usually at 53 Greene Street, where Nobu already rented a loft studio, though On was seeing slightly more of Aoki and Soroku at this time. Then, in mid-April, several significant things happened. Firstly, On didn't meet Hiroko for ten days in a row beginning on April 14. The period contains two blank 'I MET' lists which may be unique, because On and Hiroko were always in each other's company when On was in New York. They were partners, after all. And when On travelled to Japan in 1970 and then Sweden in 1972 without her, it was in a sociable context whereby he was never without company. Perhaps, on this occasion, Hiroko was visiting a friend out of town. Perhaps they were taking a break from each other. I don't know.

On April 15, On met Nobu and the aforementioned Peter Gee. I reproduce the 'I MET' below, in part because Hiroko's name is not on it.

ix002bzcrkot4002bzqmnittkrnq_thumb_f1ad Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Below is a detail from the same day's 'I WENT'. All On did was travel south by subway from his flat on East 22nd Street, then enter 140 Greene Street, and at some stage take a walk around the block. Well, not quite. It was a double block he walked around, so he wasn't inspecting the back of the building.

ondqanx8sdqorzkbks9i4g_thumb_f1a1 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Nobu's place at 53 Greene Street is on the other side of the street, two blocks up from Canal Street at the bottom of the map. So On met Nobu and Peter Gee at 140 Greene Street, not at his own home. Is this the day that On Kawara signed the papers buying the sixth floor of that building? I have to say that making this deal must have seemed like a no-brainer. On's work was beginning to sell for decent sums of money. But more than that: the twin towers had just gone up to the south of SoHo, and the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building were not much further off to the north. SoHo itself was a run down area with factories, some of them empty. But this was bound to change, and the authorities were trying to shape the forthcoming development by stipulating that only artists could buy these properties. Perfect for On, Nobu and Aoki. I wonder why Soroku didn't invest in a loft. He already had children, and perhaps simply couldn't afford it. Also, he had stopped practising as an artist in 1970 and so perhaps felt that he no longer qualified.

A few days later, April 21, On met only one person and that was René Block. Now it was at this gallerist's invitation that On would spend a year in Berlin from March 1976, so On wouldn't need New York accommodation for a full year. Did this make any difference to his calculations re 140 Greene Street? Surely not. The three Greene Street properties would only gradually be occupied. Apparently, in 1975, Aoki and Teresa were the first of 18 purchasers to move into their co-op loft at 132 Greene Street because (as Aoki states in his 2016 oral interview) his existing loft at 97 Crosby Street was going up to a monthly rent of 300 dollars, a freezing cold loft that had cost just 100 dollars in 1970.

Aoki describes these Greene Street properties as being enormous. So the artists would basically use the vast majority of the space as their studio, and they would instal a small kitchen, bedroom and a washroom in one corner of the floor. Teresa, in her oral interview, emphasises how primitive it was. The toilet facilities were basic. The sound proofing was minimal. They shared the space with rats and moths. And the windows at the back had no glass in them, though metal shuttering kept out the worst of the elements. Teresa's father was in the construction business, and his advice when he came along to view 132 Greene Street was an unequivocal: "Don't do it." But Aoki had all the skills needed to build partition walls, and to handle basic electrics and plumbing, so they did take the plunge. Though professionals had to sign off the work in order to get a Certificate of Occupation from the local authorities.

Hiroko was back in the picture on April 25. Nobu and Aoki were met that day also, and the key part of the 'I WENT' map looks like this:

bnbm0bwbsukh9d3crwyqig_thumb_f1a0 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

This time On went into two addresses on Greene Street, presumably numbers 140 and 132. Presumably too, On was showing Hiroko what they had just bought, or were about to buy. And presumably Nobu and Aoki were talking through the whole co-op thing and their places in it. How great the lofts would look after a couple of years' work! Those urinal stalls that the factory workers had used could soon be got rid of! When On and Hiroko had kids they would be able to play tennis or baseball in the main room of the loft, never mind ping-pong. What's not to like? On may have been picturing the large loft he'd had in 1966 which he'd filled so gloriously with the year's Date Paintings. All 241 of them. Hiroko's vision may have been rather different, with kids joyfully playing together.

This conversation, these imaginings, or something like them, may have continued in the café or bar that, on first glance, looks like it is on West Broadway in the map above, but is actually on the road between Greene Street and West Broadway, namely Wooster Street. It crops up quite a lot on the 'I WENT' maps of 1975 and I don't think it's where any of On's acquaintances lived, hence my café/bar assumption. It's just down the street from where Paula Cooper had her contemporary art gallery.

On April 28, On met René Block for the second time, and this time Hiroko was around. So it looks as if Hiroko was kept in the loop. After all, she would be going with On to Berlin for the year-long residency. Also, On made a single visit to 140 Greene Street in May and a single one in June. On both days he 'met' Nobu, Hiroko and Kasper König. It makes sense that Kasper was being kept in the loop as well. He would continue to be the essential component of On's progress in the art world. On and Kasper would want to discuss how On's work would evolve in this new studio. I doubt if Kasper would be able to see any down-side. As long as the purchase of the loft didn't interfere with On going to Berlin for a year, a move which would help On Kawara integrate into the German and European art scene.

During much of this time, On Kawara was sending his 'I GOT UP' cards to John Baldessari. In other words, the Californian not only got them in January, during the road trip, he got them in March, April and May. Which I hope justifies what I'm going to do next, focussing on April 26, 1975:

ulfknwrusk002bj0kfa6ajo5a_thumb_1037c.uddlf5evtiuqsmg7rumywq_thumb_1037d Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've chosen this date because the 'I MET' list includes Nobu Fukui, Soroku Toyoshima and Hirotsugu Aoki, On Kawara's fellow Japanese artists and close friends. Also on the list are Shu Takahashi, a Japanese painter of On's generation, based in Rome. Takeshi Kawashima, who Ansell Bray told me was in some ways the centre of the group of New York-based Japanese expats. Plus Aoki's partner, Nobu's wife and Hiroko.

It's a day when it would seem that the group came to On and Hiroko's place at 24 East 22nd Street. Picture the scene as Heinz Nigg has described it, and not unlike the photo taken in 1970 of Nobu Fukui's loft. A huge studio, 25 metres by 10 metres. A ping-pong table in the middle of the room. A fridge in one corner. Date Paintings on the wall. Oh, and one additional detail. Pinned to another wall the John Baldessari book/calendar published in 1971 by Konrad Fischer. Take it away Hiroko:

Hiroko: "This one is called 'The Wait'.

On: "Thank-you, Hiroko. Please begin when you're ready."

Hiroko: "Once there was an artist who everybody thought was very good. He had a few doubts about this, but it was true - he was smitten with the idea of art. So he painted. And painted. Soon someone said that he should have a show. 'Not yet,' he said, and went back to work."

Everyone in the seventh floor studio on east 22nd Street was listening. Some with smiles on their faces, some, such as Aoki, Soroku and Nobu, looking serious.

Hiroko: "He entered his works in local competitions now and then. The local library showed one of his paintings and the art critic of the town paper mentioned his name. A relative said his paintings looked like a linoleum floor and asked if he could draw. He knew that he was slowly becoming an artist."

A ripple of nervous laughter went round the largely Japanese-American audience.

Hiroko: "'You should show your works in a one-man show.' 'No,' he said, 'not yet.' And went back to work. Fellow art students rose to fame: they sold, they had shows, people talked, they moved to big cities. 'Come',' they said. 'No, not yet,' he replied. Soon his work had authority, had insight, had maturity. Should he show, he thought. No, he answered, though rewards beckoned."

Hiroko paused at this juncture. Absolute silence in the room.

Hiroko: "One morning he walked into his studio and it was clear. His work was pivotal, even seminal. The time had come for a show. He showed… and nothing happened."

There was a collective intaking of breath.

Hiroko: "Moral: Artists come and go."

Hiroko gives a little bow and everyone claps. Soon the studio was abuzz with conversation. The parable was being discussed. After some time, Nobu Fukui asked for silence and turned to On Kawara.

Nobu: "On, you have not said anything. What is your view of the parable?"

On: "I have nothing to say. But perhaps Hiroko does."

Hiroko (blinking): "The artist had got it right all along. He had to wait until the time was right. But he got it wrong in the end, because that was when the real waiting should have begun. It is vital to be connected with others in the art world once the real waiting has started. On was lucky enough to be in conversation with Kasper Konig by the time it was clear that his work was pivotal, even seminal. Together the three of us put together a plan where On would paint for five years and not try to show anything or sell anything in that time. In the meantime, postcards were sent to Pontus Hulten in Stockholm and Konrad Fischer in Dusseldorf, amongst others, so that there was a whole team of first class people at the top of important institutions behind the paintings when the time eventually came to launch the work."

Nobu: "Moral?"

Hiroko: "All artists come and go. Except one."



This time we're off from New York to the Great Lakes.


Before that, I think it's worth setting out the road trips taken since the one to and from Nova Scotia, eastern Canada, in summer of 1973. First, the red route right across the States and back towards the end of 1973. Then the blue route to Florida and back in 1974 (on top of the flight to Switzerland). Then the green route to and from Texas in January 1975. And now, in September 1975, the yellow route. Always starting from and ending at the Kawaras' home in New York. All colours arbitrary.

I've marked Cleveland as the first stop of this latest adventure, but now realise the Kawaras stopped at Harrisburg on the way to Cleveland, so that's marked on the map below, though they didn't stop long enough for any Date Painting. Nevertheless I'll start there.



September 7, 1975. Arrive.
September, 8, 1975 Explore.
September 9, 1975. Depart.

It would have taken about two and three quarter hours to cover the 170 miles. Oh, the thrill of checking in to the nearest thing to a Holiday Inn in the city. Oh, the joy of setting the alarm for 9am and stamping a postcard as soon as the alarm went off.

jtcp0maostk7mzafqlnhug_thumb_d988-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The recipient of the postcard was Frank Donegan. On and Frank met each other in Mexico in 1968. They had been friends since, and on several occasions Frank was sent 'I GOT UP' cards.

Come to think of it, after arriving on September the 7th and departing on September the 9th, it's surprising that On Kawara didn't Date Paint on that middle day, September 8. It seems that the trip to Boiling Springs (the name is on the left edge of the 'I WENT') took up most of the day, whether accidentally or not, leaving insufficient time to do a Date Painting.

The hotel is now a Quality Inn rather than a Nationwide Inn. From it there would have been a fine, wide, calming autumnal view over the Susquehanna River.

Hiroko: "Isn't it good to be out of New York?"

On: "Isn't it good to be on the road again?"

Hiroko: "The Date Painting can wait."

On: "Not for much longer."


September 9, 1975. Arrive.
September, 10. 1975. Date Paint.
September 11, 1975. Depart.

It's 330 miles between Harrisburg and Cleveland. Say five and a half hours of driving. Worth it when you get there? Well, let's see.

cfwpipk6sccbh7wioamf7g_thumb_d989-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I should say something about these postcards. They are taken from On Kawara: horizontality/verticality which was edited by Kasper König and published in 2000. There is one per new town or city visited; five in all. But when On and Michele Didier came to put together a complete 'I GOT UP' in 2008, the collection had been sold and clearly it had proved impossible to reproduce them. So the many cards are reconstructed in that publication. That is, without picture side and without Frank Donegan's address. As we'll see, the absence of the picture side of postcards during this road trip leads town intriguing ambiguity.

The hotel On and Hiroko were staying at is on the edge of Lake Erie. Terminal Tower, which you can see in the postcard, was one of the three places that they spent time on September 10. Their day's route was a triangle whose nodes are Howard Johnson's Hotel, Terminal Tower and Cleveland Art Museum.

ksg3qkgqrkk1v3z5pd3pew_thumb_d9b9-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Let's explore along the lines that the Kawaras did. From the above 'I WENT', one sees their route, and I don't know whether they first went to Terminal Tower on the left, or Cleveland Art Museum, on the right. Let's say the art gallery came first, that's in the red-lined area to the right in the full map above, and at the top of the red biro lines in the map extract below.

jdzqe7qlr5st1g8mfj04lw_thumb_d9d3-2.ewyip1ceqocjxaouxnnp1w_thumb_ecb8 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I think the gallery has grown considerably since 1975. Inside, they may have spent time with the Piccasso, or the large Monet water-lilies, or the five van Goghs, or anything really. The point of seeing a Van Gogh in the 'flesh' is to appreciate its painterly qualities. Now that many of the paintings are remarkably well illustrated online, there may be no need to travel the world anymore, wasting fuel and warming the planet. As we'll see, each of the cities On and Hiroko visited in the Great Lakes had superb collections of Van Gogh, cumulatively the best in the world outside Holland. Any cultured tourist would want to stand in front of them and gaze.

Next stop seems to have been Terminal Tower, the left hand point of the triangular route marked in red in the full map above. The two 'extra' red lines suggest that On and Hiroko entered the building, perhaps to go to the observation platform which involves one lift journey, then a walk along a corridor before a second lift journey took them even higher.

pjlw9tpjq6ef0025bxgid0025few_thumb_d9d2-2.9sish77bqholtqcxmi1ouw_thumb_d9ce Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

There is and was an observation deck near the top of Terminal Tower. I imagine the view of Lake Eiry would have been impressive. The height above the ground would have impressed me, but it's possible that On and Hiroko, being from New York, were less impressed. What was it that Hiroko mentioned in her letter to the museum director in Bern? That On was considering getting a studio flat at the top of the Empire State Building, but was put off by the lack of air at such a height. And a decent Date Painter needs fresh air.

Time to find the hotel from the address we have on the 'I GOT UP' card of September 10, 1975. Well, Google tells me that a green patch of land corresponds to 5700 South Marginal Road these days. So the hotel has been demolished. However, Google's archive reveals that in 2007 there was a high rise there. On and Hiroko would indeed have had a splendid view of Lake Eiry. And if you go further back you come across postcards of what the hotel looked like back in 1975. It looked fantastic:


Back in 2021 I asked AGO for 'I MET' for the Date Painting day in Cleveland, just to confirm what is building up in my mind:

September 10, 1975

Now I believe that On Kawara would have begun his Date Painting before leaving the hotel in the morning. He would have laid down two layers of red ochre background, just to touch base with the art of 3000 years ago, and one layer of the ultimate background colour, grey-black, before Hiroko got him into the lift. The Date Painting would be all the richer for a day spent exploring Cleveland. In the evening, while Hiroko sipped red wine while standing on the balcony of their room, On would finish the main event of the day. The simplest of paintings. Did I say simple? It had everything!


On: "What do you see when you look at today's Date Painting?"

Hiroko: "I see today's Van Gogh."

On: "Do you really?"

Hiroko: "Don't you?"

On: "Oh, yes."


The above painting was done in a day by Van Gogh in the summer of 1889, when he was living in the asylum at Saint Remy in southern France. Van Gogh was in voluntary exile from Holland, just as On Kawara had opted to leave Japan for America. When looked at from another galaxy, a million years from now, Van Gogh and On Kawara will seem to have been occupying the exact same space-time co-ordinates.

Do you, dear viewer, begin to see why On had chosen to go on this road-trip to the Great Lakes? There is so much more to come. But in the meantime, let's keep it real and show what On read the next day and placed in his 'I READ' files re SEPT. 10, 1975.

Not the sort of photo that would make its way into the pages of the New York Times. This is from The Plain Dealer:



September 12, 1975. Arrive.
September 13. 1975. Date Paint.
September 14, 1975. Date Paint.
September 15, 1975. Depart.

It's 170 miles to the other side of Lake Erie and the motor city of Detroit, which takes about three hours to drive. Which must seem like nothing when you know you've got a Holiday Inn waiting at the far end of your journey.

fjl1jmcnsrawsdbay0025lgrq_thumb_d98a-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It's a shame, in a way, that On didn't choose the postcard celebrating the Holiday Inn, that shows smiling, pink-skinned people in bathing suits, the card that he had sent to Claire Copley on December 29, 1974 and John Baldesarri on January 11, 1975.

In any case, we are ready to explore Detroit. Below is a detail from I WENT, September 13, 1975.

lxgakubstnys2cg2k60cxg_thumb_d9ba-2.unadjustednonraw_thumb_ecbc Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've briefly investigated all the stops and can't say too much about what the Kawaras were up to. With one exception. They went to The Detroit Institute of Art at the top left of the red biro trail. Detroit is another art museum blessed with some splendid van Goghs. The Diggers from Saint Remy in 1889 catches my eye. And the splendid portrait of van Gogh's postman in Arles, painted in 1888.

Let's get back to the hotel. In one of its rooms sits (in my mind's eye) an unfinished Date Painting. It was begun, in the morning, but there was no way that On Kawara could have finished it before setting off to explore the city. After all, he didn't get up until after ten. Here is how the Holiday Inn at 1331 Trumbull Avenue looked in its hey-day.


By midnight on September 13, 1975, On Kawara had produced this:


On: "What do you think?"

Hiroko: "It takes me back to The Diggers this afternoon."

On: "Really?"

Hiroko: "I now know what they were doing. In their happiness, they were burying a Date Painting. So that when they were old and ugly and miserable they could come back and dig it up and remember."


I recall that when Jonathan Watkins read the first draft of this chapter in autumn 2021, he wrote and told me: 'On’s flat on Rue Pigalle backed onto a house where Van Gogh once stayed. He was keen to point that out to me.'

The Kawaras bought a flat in Paris in the 1990s. The Van Gogh flat that On referred Jonathan to was the one Vincent shared for two years with Theo on Rue Lepic while transitioning from a gloomy Dutch palette to a colourful impressionist one.

Would On Kawara have bought into the Vincent Van Gogh myth? It seems that he did, on some level. Though that's just one way of interpreting the 'I WENT' information of autumn 1975, one that reflects my own tastes. So am I just projecting, then? It is perfectly possible. If I ever get to see the majority of the pictures on the cards that On sent to Frank Donegan or A. N .Other in September 1975, I will have a better idea. In the meantime, I'm following through with this.

Keeping things real again, here is the 'I READ' that was filed with the following day's Date Painting. It's a cutting from The Detroit Free Press and is suitably fixated with a Dutch artist:



September 15, 1975. Arrive.
September 16. 1975. Date Paint.
September 17, 1975. Date Paint.
September 18, 1975. Date Paint.
September 19, 1975. Depart.

How far from Detroit to Chicago? 240 miles. Four and a half hours of fast driving.

"Look, Hiroko! We must be nearly there."


And so it does. On and Hiroko were soon comfortably ensconced. Tomorrow was a new day…

September 16, 1975

vnkfv0025totr6kpamw002bkdd5w_thumb_d98b-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Here is a detail of the 'I WENT' for September 16, 1975.

asvdy24002bsuqm3w0025s31rvkq_thumb_d9bb-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I suspect the centre of Chicago has changed quite a bit. Those bus terminals marked on the above map are no longer there. And I suspect some of the various red marks found on the circuit signal going into - or coming out of - the underground network. It looks as if the Nineteenth Century domes of what is now the Chicago Cultural Centre were admired. And, for sure, the Kawaras explored the Art Institute of Chicago.

In there, they have long had an excellent collection of van Goghs, that comprises no fewer than eight drawings and ten paintings. Including a version of The Artist's Bedroom.

Hiroko: "I see he had a table."

On: "Just about useable for making Date Paintings. Vincent would have had to move the bowl and the bottles under the bed."

Hiroko: "There are a lot of 8s in 1888."

On: "This is a copy he made of the painting that is in Amsterdam. He made two copies. This is one and the other is in the Musée D'Orsay. The copies were made in September, 1889. In any case, a Date Painter treats all characters the same."

Hiroko: "No favourites?"

On: "All different; all the same."

That's enough sight-seeing let's get back to that most happening of places, the Holiday Inn. The one at 1 South Halsted Street (per the postcard) was an absolute classic:


On Kawara made three Date Paintings in his room at the Holiday Inn. None of them are reproduced in catalogues. So without being able to reproduce them, I must forego reproducing any of Vincent's paintings that On and Hiroko may have seen on September 16, 1975. But don't worry, On and Hiroko would return to Chicago on their way back to New York and that Date is reproduced. Patience, dear reader.

For the moment, visualise On and Hiroko's Holiday Inn room at Chicago. In their luggage the Date Paintings were mounting up. Well, not quite true. The three Date Paintings made prior to arriving in Chicago would have been in the trunk of their car, which they can see from their room. And the three new ones are lying on a table beside their boxes. On is reading copies of the Chicago Tribune from September 16 to 18 and making selections to go in the boxes with the paintings, as well as creating 'I READ' pages for the Dates.



September 19, 1975. Arrive.
September 20. 1975. Date Paint.
September 21, 1975. Date Paint.
September 22, 1975. Depart.

410 miles. Just over 6 hours of solid driving north-west to get from Chicago to Minneapolis.

fnqxgxhssly0s6m0j9hczq_thumb_d98c-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The photo below was taken (by Hiroko, let's face it, as confirmed by her name being the only one on the 'I MET' list for September 21, 1975) in the Kawaras' hotel room. It shows maps of Minneapolis and postcards of the city.

sfp2cnyjrkw0025fybxrpzvbg_thumb_d938-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I can't see on the bed the actual postcard that went out on September 21. But I can say that the postcard below is very similar to the one that's on top of the pile of cards lying on the bed, because of the way one skyscraper overlaps with another.


While I'm pleased to have made this identification, I have no progress to report concerning the September postcard's recipient. Who was Frank Donegan? No-one in the art world, it seems. He lived in New York, on East 28th Street, not far from a couple of On Kawara's addresses. But that doesn't get us far. He was sent postcards periodically, beginning in January, 1969, and ending in January 1977. 72 of these were sold in 2001, and there is this photographic record of the sale.


By scrutinising these cards, tiny though the images are, one can deduce certain things. The postcards sent to Frank Donegan on September 10 and September 21, 1975, are not there, whereas the cards sent on September 8, 13 and 16, 1975, are. So perhaps there are other cards sent to Frank Donegan that were not sold, or sold on another occasion, and remain unknown.

Let's get back to September, 1975. Outside the hotel. Minneapolis is all around. What is that close to the bottom end of September 21st's red route?

5zjx5lytqlswhrg2veygha_thumb_d9bc-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It's the Minneapolis Institute of Art, no less. And do we find in the permanent collection some fine examples of drawings and paintings by Vincent Van Gogh? Well, one or two. There is a drawing of Dr Gachet, Van Gogh's doctor in Auvers. And there is a lively olive tree composition, painted at Saint Remy in the second half of 1889. Van Gogh painted about fifteen canvases of olive trees back then. The canvas was bought through the William Hood Dunwoody Fund in the early years of the twentieth century, so it would have been on view in 1975 all right, as is the case with all the Van Gogh paintings I'm mentioning.

Of course, we don't know what took On Kawara's attention in the gallery. There is a Department of Asian Art. And within that a huge Japanese section. He and Hiroko may have spent time with a print by Hiroshige, Evening Shower over Ohashi Bridge and Atake, which is famous in its own right, and because Van Gogh made a copy of it in 1887.

But I don't have to labour Van Gogh's links with Japan and the society that On Kawara was born into. It is their shared connection with humanity that is crucial. Of course, the Kawaras may have spent their whole visit looking at other exquisite Hiroshige prints, which are housed by the M.I.A. in abundance.

At this point, I should say this. The book (On Kawara: horizontality/verticality) that provides me with reproductions of the 'I GOT UP' postcards and the 'I WENT' maps, has been fairly consistently providing me with this info on the day after arrival at each city. The day when On Kawara tends to visit each city's art gallery. Now if On Kawara was going to send a postcard of an exhibit, say a Van Gogh, he would pick that up during his visit to the gallery, and maybe use it the next day, which would often be a day of departure from the city.

There is a precedent, in that after visiting the Crocker Art Gallery in L.A. in November 1973, he sent a card of a Breughel painting from the collection to Ursula Meyer.

Anyway, with that said, let's return to the hotel. It seems like we've been walking around for hours, even decades.


The Beatles were once guests in this same hotel. A waitress tells a story of serving cup of coffee to three of them. Funnily enough there are no stories of staff interacting with On Kawara. Perhaps because he was concentrating so intently until, late at night, he had got this far:


On: "As I was getting close to perfecting it, I realised something about the Van Gogh we were admiring this afternoon."

Hiroko: "Which one?"

On: "You know the one."

Hiroko: "You are right. I see its sun blazing."

On: "That's what I realised. The shadows of the trees cast by the sun are light, not dark. And I see the truth in that."


Hiroko: "Vincent's picture is fantastic. Like yours. They both say 'All You Need is Love'"

On: "All You Need is Sun."

Turning away from the speculative, what did On Kawara file in 'I READ' for this day? Cuttings from the Milwaukee Tribune:


The story about the burning pier begins on the piece of paper than has been folded towards the viewer. There is another folded story along the top, the bulk of it obscured. I do not think these 'I READ' pages were intended to be visual art, certainly not most of the time. They amount to documentation, as do the newspaper-lined boxes in which the Date Paintings were housed.


September 22, 1975. Arrive.
September 23. 1975. Date Paint.
September 24, 1975. Depart.

5 hours. 340 miles. But we've turned around, and are heading back east to New York.

e9vmysd002brcurngt9u1co6q_thumb_d98d-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Why are the Kawaras staying at the Ramada Inn? Were there no Holiday Inns in Milwaukee? Perhaps the Holiday Inns were full. The Ramada Inn has only recently closed down. It now looks like an abandoned office block. However, there is still a website online with many photos showing it when it was still operating as a hotel. At the back of the hotel there was a swimming pool. David Hockney would have loved to have made a bigger splash there. Two double-beds would seem to have come as standard. Some of the other rooms look more Indian, but by and large there is a Western look about the decor.

The 'I MET' list for the day comes with no surprises.

SEPT. 23, 1975

Hiroko took another photo in their Milwaukee room. Making the fourth taken in different hotel rooms in 1975. I should just remind you, modern reader, that photography was a completely different ball game in those days. The four photos may have been taken on the same film of 24, and been developed at the same time. Anyway, here it is, copied from near the back of the 2002 Phaidon volume on On Kawara.

xypi002bptzqkqzvfkp1mbypq_thumb_d271-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I'm glad I had to pick up the Phaidon catalogue in order to copy that image. On a hunch, I checked out the list of people paying tribute to On Kawara in the opening section of this book. And, sure enough, there is the following entry:

Frank Donegan:
"On always beat me at ping-pong; Hiroko is a brilliant shadow."
(No biography at the author's request.)

So that's that. Or at least it's a bare minimum about Frank Donegan, who was receiving postcards throughout the road-trip to the Great Lakes. Back to the above photo taken, I'm assuming, by On's brilliant shadow. The black case is what catches my eye. It will hold everything that is needed by On Kawara: his mobile studio. Built to carry at least one Date Painting, size A or B, maps, postcards and the various stamps and ink blocks needed to fill in each postcard.

OK, let's exit the Ramada Inn. Let's explore Milwaukee in On's footsteps. But please note, that Date Painting is not finished. On has several hours of detailed work to do on it yet.

qzoc8a002bfqgc7ry4p8kmw3a_thumb_d9bd-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It looks like the Kawaras took a stroll in Mitchell Park, on the left of the circuit. But, as usual while on this trip, the day after arrival meant a visit to the main art gallery of the city. In this case, Milwaukee Art Museum.

This had been located by Lake Michigan since the 50s, but there was a considerable extension made in 1975, designed by David Kahler, which referenced the hard-edged design of the 1957 War Memorial, but not slavishly. It reminds me bit of Cleveland. Only instead of a modernist 'Lakeside Lodge' overlooking Lake Erie one has a brutalist art gallery perched over the edge of Lake Michigan. Which begs the question, what is the real context for the Date Paintings made on this trip? Is it the 'Holiday Inn' that they were painted in? Where one can assume that most of the other inhabitants in similar rooms were watching TV, recovering from business meetings, drinking or having sex? Or is it the high art context, where in the time between painting the background of the picture and painting the white characters of the date, On Kawara would have absorbed something masterful from the history of art, in its original form?

There are no van Gogh paintings in the permanent collection of Milwaukee Art Museum, I have to admit. Milwaukee was the first stop on the Kawaras' way back to New York. It remains a possibility that On Kawara set out to see for himself the Van Goghs of the Great Lakes, involving stops at Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis, the best 'collection' to be experienced outside the Netherlands and Paris. But he had to stop in one or two other places to facilitate the overall trip.


Back in the Hotel Ramada on the evening of the 23rd of September, how would On an Hiroko have amused themselves. First, the Date Painting would have been completed.


Then, in the absence of a Van Gogh to discuss, I see On extracting Ingres and Other Parables from his black case and pinning John Baldessari's book/calendar to the wall. On invited Hiroko to read 'The Best Way To Do Art'.

Hiroko: "A young artist in school used to worship the paintings of Cezanne. He looked at and studied all the books he could find on Cezanne and copied all of the reproductions of Cezanne's work he found in books."

On: "I used to copy the works of Mondrian as a schoolboy. And Nobu was a great admirer of Cezanne. But forgive me for interrupting."

Hiroko: "He visited a museum and for the first time saw a real Cezanne painting. He hated it. It was nothing like the Cezannes he had studied in books."

On (laughing): "Sorry, I am thinking about Nobu. He loved Cezanne from books too."

Hiroko: "From that time on, he made all of his paintings the sizes of paintings reproduced in books and he painted them in black and white. He also printed captions and explanations on the paintings in books. Often he just used words. And one day he realised that very few people went to art galleries and museums but many people look at books and magazines as he did and they got them through the mail as he did. Moral: it's difficult to put a painting in a mailbox."

On (chuckling): "Where do I start?"

Hiroko: "It's difficult to put a painting in a mailbox."

On: "It's easy to put a postcard in a mailbox."

Hiroko: "If John is right, why have we been going to such effort to see van Goghs in their originals?"

On: "John is not right. Though I have to admit that I like van Gogh paintings in any format. There is a book of his 'Complete Works' where every painting is reduced to a black and white rectangle little bigger than a postage stamp. And I like that a lot. I used it to get to know all the lesser-known works that way. And I got to know these lesser-known works very well. Which is not to say that seeing a painting - in its original size and colour, with all the impasto effects - is not the best experience possible. It is the best."

Hiroko: "I agree."

On: "Let us return to Chicago tomorrow to take another look at their superb collection of Van Goghs. In the meantime, could you slip these pages into the 'I READ' file?"


Hiroko: "They are a bit messy."

On: "They are what they are."


September 24, 1975. Arrive.
September 25. 1975. Date Paint.
September 26, 1975. Depart.

Why back to Chicago? Well, On and Hiroko were driving back to New York, so they would have had to stop for the night in at least two more places. They stopped in Chicago long enough for another Date Painting to be made. Although this was the second stop in Chicago, Date Paintings in 89 Cities chooses to reproduce the SEPT. 25, 1975 painting, and not the previous three made in Chicago, as I've already alluded to.

Let's check that they had not gone back to Chicago to meet anyone.

SEPT 25, 1975

Good. And let's see the Date Painting.


Hiroko: "Do you know what that brings to mind."

On: "I think I do."

Hiroko: "Vincent's The Poet's Garden."

On: "I was thinking about it all the time I was painting the 2 and the 5."

Hiroko: "Let me visualise it."


On: "Keep visualising."

Hiroko: "I have it!"

On: "Isn't it something?"


Hiroko: "Could it not last longer?"

On: "Now you are asking for eternal life."

Hiroko: "Am I? Yes, why not?"

On: "In the meantime, please file this from the Chicago Tribune."




Back in New York. The Big Apple. The biggest apple-pie ever.

Five Date Paintings were made in October, eight in November, and ten in December. But something had changed. Every Date Painting had been of size A or B throughout 1973 and 1974. Suddenly, in late November, there were three made in size D, followed by three of that same bigger size in December.

Coincidentally, two of these larger paintings are now in private collections in Chicago. Did On Kawara meet a collector or two during his road trip? In February 2005, Candida Höfer took a photo of an On Kawara in the collection of Anstiss and Ronald Krueck, based in Chicago. And the next day she took a photo of a similarly large On Kawara in the collection of Celia L. Marriott, also in Chicago. Of course, these paintings could have been bought long after 1975.

There are many reasons why On Kawara might have begun to paint larger paintings. It could have been a whim. Or it could have been strategic thinking. Let's bear it in mind as we take stroll through the last three months of 1975.

Have a look at the two postcards I've placed below. Of course, it is impossible to see these Twin Towers through 2023 eyes in the same way as Hiroko and On saw them in 1975, thanks to the horrific event that happened roughly halfway between 1975 and the present. But let's try and take ourselves back to those earlier times, when the American Dream would have still seemed fresh.

002bqlk7mrlsaglm8b6s7tfcq_thumb_f1a9.spwupzcyq002bum6okbfurxow_thumb_f1aa Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Perhaps On liked to think of the Twin Towers as himself and Hiroko. They were securely planted in New York and they were inseparable. Though having said that, as well as the 10-day break in April, they had been apart for a full month from June 10, 1975, to July 11, 1975. In that period there were seven blank 'I MET' sheets. Anyway, On was doing well in his art career, essentially because his ideas were so original and they were being manifested in the most rigorous and relentless way. And Hiroko was supporting him every step (more or less) of the way. Indeed, her support was a necessary part of his resource set. Do I know that for a fact? No, it's supposition, but it is surely so.

The Twin Tower postcards bring to mind On's point made to a German writer (Wolfgang Max Faust) that Western thinking was all about the number '1' while 'complements' pervaded all Japanese thought. The implication would be that the Empire State Building might have impressed a Westerner, but the Japanese preferred the Twin Towers.

omoaoldbrnma0srrmdhddq_thumb_f1ab.e45hkj9yraqqds4fs5ffyq_thumb_f1ac Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

So let's persist with the metaphor. On Kawara as one tower. His Japanese friends, primarily Nobu, Aoki and Soroku (but really there were about thirty, even fifty, of them, mostly artists), as the second tower, supporting the first.

But let's not forget Kasper König and family. On and Hiroko as one tower, the four members of the König household (one of them called Hiroko) as the other. On Kawara needed a Western champion of his work in order to make progress in the Western art world. Through Kasper, On Kawara got to know Pontus Hulten, Johannes Gachnang, Konrad Fischer and Angela Westwater. Actually, On made a visit to 140 (but see later in this essay) Greene Street on October 8, and the people he met that day included no less than Kasper König, Konrad Fischer and Angela Westwater. He wanted these people in particular to see where he would be making Date Paintings in the future. And if Nicholas Logsdail had been in New York at the time he would have been shown around 140 Greene Street as well. Still, he got the next best thing, Twin Tower postcards, two of them:

jnuqlbt0s0025k00254lgehzi9ba_thumb_f1b8.gafolnv9svs2azfpfshqva_thumb_f1b9 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Perhaps On liked to think of the Twin Towers as 140 and 132 Greene Street. Does that make sense? It puts a lot of emphasis on his friendship with Aoki, so let's just see how things panned out in 1975. On continued to meet Nobu, Aoki and Soroku throughout the year. Things were pretty quiet in terms of 140 Greene Street (no more than one visit a month, sometimes none at all) until December. But there were visits to the new property on December 9, 12 and 16. Let's take a close look at them. Basically, on the 9th, On (and Hiroko?) took the subway under Broadway, got out of the train and returned to street level, and made a visit to 140 Greene Street and the bar/café on Wooster Street.

oy8k6xyqrqia1esnomxelw_thumb_f1a4 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The people met on the 9th were as follows:

dmlfe1har002bk46lnloppxvq_thumb_f1bd Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Nobu and his wife and child may already have made the move from 53 to 140 Greene Street by this time, accounting for the three Fukuis. I heard Teresa O'Connor mention that K.B. Hwang, the respected printer, had bought the loft underneath On and Hiroko, so he also would have been an early occupant of 140 Greene Street. Tetsu Sueyoshi was staying with the Kawaras (he was met on each of the first 12 days of the month). And Tatsuo Kondo was the writer who would provide regular reports of the goings-on amongst Japanese artists for an art magazine in Tokyo, occasionally mentioning On Kawara and stating at one point that Nobu Fukui was his, Tatsuo's, closest friend.

In other words, I know all about what happened to On Kawara on December 9, 1975. I know everything and I know nothing. (It wasn't a Date Painting day.)

The second visit to 140 Greene Street was on December 12. By the way, notice that the World Trade Centre site is marked towards the bottom of the pro forma map, just left of centre. That's where the Twin Towers were standing by this time, so the pro forma map was out of date. I will keep an eye open for On updating it. On went into the Wooster Street café /bar and he went into 140 Greene Street. He also visited another Greene Street site, though it was too far south to be number 132, more like 120.

5tjrhkj9q8ejzkpk9kvefa_thumb_f1a3 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Below is the 'I MET' list for December 12. The fact that Nobu and his daughter, Miki, are on it, is more evidence that the Fukuis had moved from 53 to 140 Greene Street by this time. Katsuyoshi Goto and Seiji Kunishima were both ambitious and successful sculptors and they may have been socialising with both On Kawara and Nobu Fukui.

uh3749dzq002bq0etekuha8gw_thumb_f1bf Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On to December 16, and the third trip to 140 Green Street. To begin with this puzzled me. The two red marks suggest going in to both 140 and 132 Greene Street. But, as you'll soon see, Aoki wasn't on the 'I MET' list for this day. My provisional conclusion was that On may have been visiting another of the new owner-occupiers of 132 Greene Street.

kyissxhisgy3qppncyab4a_thumb_f1a5 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

However, the key name on the day's 'I MET' list is Angela Westwater. Indeed, this led me to a revelation of sorts, which I have now worked through. Angela Westwater, Konrad Fischer and Gian Enzo Sperone opened an art gallery in 1975 at none other than 142 Greene Street. (Apparently there were about 80 galleries in SoHo at the time, it was fast becoming hip.) So on this occasion, On was indeed visiting 140 Greene Street, where he bumped into Nobu, but also 142 Greene Street, to talk with Angela Westwater and, I assume, her important collector, Sylvio Perlstein.

6o065m0002brx002biy8x8xe002b0025qq_thumb_f1c0 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Within a week, On was sending Sylvio Perlstein 'I GOT UP' cards, as you can see from below. Quite handy to have a top-notch new gallery right next to where you've bought a studio. Perhaps that's what the twin towers represent: 140 and 142 Greene Street.

z9ii7ao4tqe6xiq2wc3gsq_thumb_f1bb.w0p0sshktue3y8i40hqk0g_thumb_f1bc Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Twin Towers. Where On Kawara would be making Dates; alongside where he would be showing Dates. Gallery and studio. Studio and gallery. A vision that would remain viable for twenty years, which is a long time. But nor thirty years, other things had intervened by then.

I should say also that Paula Cooper, whose gallery was at 155 Wooster Street was sent three 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams, on December 7, 10 and 27. Was he hedging his bets between Paula and Angela?

Taking another pass through the 'I MET' lists, I noticed that On Kawara met Angela Westwater, Konrad Fischer, Kasper König and Gian Enzo Sperone on October 8. The three owners of the new gallery. Plus Kasper König, who was the instigator behind On Kawara's rise in the art world. Plus various artists and friends

vygnw3snqdsd6vaup0scwq_thumb_f1cd Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

And so I realised that this October day On went to what I had taken to be 140 Greene Street but was clearly 142 Greene Street.

hlw83ttstq2zdy002buvj5nfq_thumb_f1cc Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I now know that the gallery had opened in September and that the inaugural show had been of Carl Andre's work, open from October 4 to November 1. That's the New York artist that 'didn't get' On Kawara's work according to Nobu Fukui. On may or may not have 'got' Carl Andre's work, but I expect he would have been able to negotiate his way around the new space with the gallery owners. According to Angela Westwater, On Kawara didn't like to talk about his own work, preferring silence on the matter, but she suggests that On was comfortable socially and had a quiet sense of humour. It is especially significant that Konrad Fischer was one of the directors, because he was already intent on championing Richard Long and On Kawara in his Dusseldorf gallery, one or the other getting a show every year for over a decade.

Oh yes, and there was a similar visit to 142 (not 140) Greene Street on November 13, with Konrad Fischer and Angela Westwater being met on that day. According to Angela Westwater, in an interview with Larkin Erdmann in 2018: 'We met in the early 70s thanks to Konrad Fischer with whom I opened the gallery in New York in September 1975 along with Gian Enzo Sperone. Kasper König, Konrad and I visited On Kawara November 13, 1975 at his apartment, 405 East 13th Street. These encounters in 1975 are also recorded in On Kawara's project I MET.' This is helpful, though not entirely accurate, as the I MET for November 13 shows that On was living at 24 East 22nd Street and that he did not go near East 13th Street that day, having vacated that flat a few years earlier.

I need to mention in passing something that surprises me. First let me set the scene. In September of 1975, during the road-trip to the Great Lakes, On took a lift up to the viewing platform of the highest building in Cleveland, Ohio, to take in the view of the city and Lake Erie. More scene-setting: in May 1977 On made it to the top of the highest building in Paris, Montparnasse Tower, to enjoy a view that would have included the newly built Pompidou Centre where his own incredible solo show was at that time installed. So On liked an overview.

Now in December 1975, the 107th floor of the South Tower in Manhattan was opened to the public as an indoor viewing platform, and you could also enjoy the view from atop the 110th floor. From there you could see for 50 miles on a clear day. Certainly, you would have had an excellent view of New York. Yet a study of the 'I WENT' maps suggest that On Kawara did not go near the World Trade Centre site in the month. I suppose he may have left off a visit until early 1976, but I've checked that as well. I can hardly get away with the Twin Towers as being metaphors for 132 and 140 Greene Street, or 140 and 142 Greene Street, if it turns out that On and Hiroko never took the opportunity to look at their property - and the neighbouring properties - from such a viewpoint.

Now to end with another thing that surprises me. When On was visiting 142 Greene Street on those days in October and November, probably the latter, it would seem that he was being offered a solo show, his first in New York. And that solo show was open to the public from March 6 to 27, 1976. Not only did On Kawara not attend the opening, as was his habit, he didn't see the show at all. He was based in Berlin at the time. He and Hiroko did return to Berlin for a couple of months, but not until April 22, 1976. I suppose On did not want to have to chat with his friends or the general public about the Date Paintings. Let them see the Dates in the new gallery by all means, but the artist did not wish to discuss what they were looking at. Let them make their own minds up.

So what did visitors to Fischer Sperone Westwater in March of 1976 see? There are two photos of the installation included in the book, On Kawara continuity/discontinuity 1963-1979. Here is one of them:

unadjustednonraw_thumb_f1c7 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation, and with the forbearance, I hope, of Sperone Westwater.

It may be that the line of consecutive dates goes on outside the boundaries of the photograph, but I don't think it does. On Kawara painted the Date on each day from AUG. 11 to AUG. 21, while the Dates in the above photo just go from AUG.11 to AUG. 16, 1975. Nothing controversial there, it became On's custom when dealing with élite, commercial galleries in London, Dusseldorf, New York, Paris and so on, to choose Dates from the year preceding the year of the exhibition in question.

But the other photo documenting the show is the one below. The August pictures, shown above, are size B and these three are size D. I think it likely that On Kawara reverted to painting size D canvases in November and December of 1975 because Angela Westwater suggested that it would be a good idea to have some larger Dates to offer New York clients.

1w9tp4ylqq2h7yu8kt9pjg_thumb_f1c9 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation, and with the forbearance, I hope, of Sperone Westwater.

But dear reader, can you spot what's strange about this set up? Yes, the paintings are not in date order. Now On Kawara invariably displayed his Dates in chronological order. He did not want to distract from their serious conceptual meaning: life is lived one day at a time. Dates come in order. If you are lucky enough to have the privilege of living through a day, there is nothing more to be said. If you are lucky enough to then live another day, then the consciousness of that is what the wise man or woman focuses on. The miracle of consciousness itself. There is no Back to the Future nonsense! To put the December Date at the beginning of the row is tampering with the very fabric of time. Or at least that's how it feels to me. That's how I strongly suspect it would have felt to On Kawara.

Now Konrad Fischer, Angela Westwater's partner, was used to displaying On's Date paintings in Dusseldorf, but he may not have been in New York in March 1976. Angela Westwater was the director who was based in Manhattan, so I'm surmising that It was her decision to place the Dates on the wall in this order, thus creating a whole lot of noise in the viewer's mind that was not the intention of the artist. What do I mean by noise? Basically, it puts in the viewer's mind that there is a reason that the December date has been put before the November dates, and that reason can usefully be thought about. For instance, I've now looked up the three days as manifested in the self-observation series. So on December 11, a postcard went to Rolf Preisig, Swiss gallerist. On's getting up time, 10.19A.M. While on November 27, a card went to Kazuo Okazaki, artist based in Tokyo; On's getting up time, 10.55A.M. And on November 30, a card was sent to Nicholas Logsdail, London gallerist; On's getting up time, 12.03 P.M. So the paintings are in order of getting up time, one might conclude. Which is a distracting nonsense.

Or how about this? On December 11, On met 3 people. On Nov 27, On met three people. And on November 30, On met three people. Almost the same people. Four people altogether, with two of them being husband and wife: Noriko and Tetsu Sueyoshi.

Hiroko…Hiroko…. Soroku
Noriko…Tetsu….. Hiroko
Tetsu….Soroku... Tetsu

Perhaps On was trying to say something about his relationship with these particular individuals. (Again, I really don't think so.)

Or how about this? On December 11, On dropped in to 142 Greene Street. On November 27 and November 30, he didn't go near the gallery. Maybe on December 11 he came to the gallery and decided where the day's Date would hang and the rest of the show would have to work around it. You see how one can make false patterns? You see how distracting that is from the simplicity of existence? Of spending the irreplaceable day thinking about just that, in other words Date Painting?

Or am I making too much of this? There is the photo that was taken in the studio in Stockholm where the dates, all from January 1973, are stood up on the floor in a random order. However, this photograph was informal, principally taken to show the clutter on the artist's desk in the foreground of the image. So I think it can be discounted.

It may be that Angela Westwater would be able to throw light on this matter. Although it was On Kawara's painting, it was appearing in her gallery, so she had the right to hang it in a way that appealed to her commercial instincts. Maybe Sylvio Perlstein bowled along and insisted that he would buy a painting if the December date be placed at the beginning of the row of three, pushing both the other pictures one place along. Ha-ha. (That's Sylvio laughing, not me.)

After all that dry analysis, a fictional scenario comes to mind that can bring the John Baldessari thread in this chapter, as well as the New York dealer thread, to a conclusion. Are you ready? Then I can begin…

On finds himself standing with Hiroko in the gallery at 142 Greene Street. On wants to play the Baldessari game so Hiroko takes out the book from her bag and opens it at a new story called 'Art History'.

On: "Please read, if you don't mind."

Hiroko: "A young artist had just finished art school. He asked his instructor what he should do next. “Go to New York,” the instructor replied, “and take slides of your work around to all the galleries and ask them if they will exhibit your work.” Which the artist did. He went to gallery after gallery with his slides. Each director picked up the slides one by one, held each up to the light the better to see it, and squinted his eyes as they looked. “You’re too provincial an artist,” they all said. “we’re looking for Art History.” He tried. He moved to New York. He painted tirelessly, seldom sleeping. He went to museum and gallery openings, studio parties and artists’ bars. He talked to every person having anything to do with art; travelled and thought and read constantly about art. He collapsed. He took his slides around the galleries a second time. “Ah,” the gallery directors said this time “finally you are historical.” Moral: Historical mispronounced sounds like hysterical.”

On (frowning): "I need to pick apart the ending."

Hiroko: "Go ahead."

On: "I am left with the impression that the artist thinks he has been accepted by the New York art world, but actually, the gallerist thinks that the artist has become a joke."

Hiroko: "It seems so."

On: "But actually that is not the situation. If the director has mispronounced 'historical', it sounds as if he or she has said 'hysterical'. So the director finally approves of the artist's work, but the artist, hearing 'hysterical', thinks he is being dismissed."

Hiroko: "Success and failure. Very difficult to tell apart sometimes."

On: "But whichever interpretation is correct, there is not a meeting of minds. The artist and the gallerist do not understand each other."

Hiroko: "They rarely do."

On: "I understand this to be an autobiographical allegory, as John Baldessari has resisted the temptation to leave the West coast and go to New York."

Hiroko: "But we have met him here."

On: "But he goes back to California. He lives and works in Santa Monica."

Hiroko: "True."

On: "The funny thing is, I too am reading the story as autobiographical allegory. Here we are in New York. I have been showing my Date Paintings to Paula Cooper and to Angela Westwater."

Hiroko: "And they said: "What is this day pain thing?"

On: "And I heard: 'What is this Date Painting?'

Hiroko: "And they will say: 'What is this Date Painting?

On: "And I will hear: 'What is this day pain thing?'

Hiroko: "But in any case, they have decided that your Date Paintings are historical."

On: "They have decided that my size 'D' Date Paintings, if placed in a certain order, are historical."


Berlin beckons.

What can one say about 1973, 1974 and 1975? Oh those roller-coasting, road-trips!

But let's bear in mind that, thanks to Nobu Fukui's New York loft-buying vision, On Kawara was able to sing softly in Hiroko's ear: "I've got some real estate here in my bag."

Next chapter.