On Kawara

(b. 1933)

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(1932/3– )

Japanese artist, born at Kariya. The ambiguity in the birthdate is the result of a discrepancy between the date given in most sources and a calculation made from the ‘life-date’, which can be deduced from paintings in which he gives his age at the time of making them in days. He was self-taught as an artist. In the early 1950s he came to prominence with violently satirical paintings and drawings of disjointed human figures and corpses in which he portrayed the predicament of Japan after the Second World War. Later he devised a method by which he duplicated an original painting in a number of variations that he called ‘Original Printed Paintings’. In 1959 he left Japan and after extensive travels settled in New York in 1965. From this time he devoted himself to Conceptual art, notably with a series of I am Still Alive postcards and telegrams sent to friends and other correspondents. He has made a series of over 2,000 paintings showing only the date of execution and made within a set of strict rules. If the painting is not completed by midnight it is destroyed. The date form and language is always that of the country in which the work is executed. If the language does not employ the Roman alphabet, he uses Esperanto. All the paintings are square and identically sized. The paintings are packaged with newspaper cuttings from the same day. Like Stanley Brouwn, another artist whose work makes elliptical reference to his own life, he abjures any interviews or interpretations of his art.

Further Reading

A. Searle, ‘It's a Date’, The Guardian (3 December 2002)

http://www.diacenter.org/exhibs_b/kawara/essay.html ‘On Kawara’: essay by Lynne Cooke on the Dia art foundation website.

Subjects: Art.

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