20th Century and Contemporary, Books, Museums/Exhibits, Painting

Date, Place, Time: On Kawara’s Concepts

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1 August 2011 2 August 2011 3 August 2011 4 August 2011 5 August 2011 6 August 2011 7 August 2011 8 August 2011 9 August 2011 10 August 2011 11 August 2011 12 August 2011 13 August 2011 14 August 2011 15 August 2011 16 August 2011

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17 August 2011 18 August 2011 19 August 2011 20 August 2011 21 August 2011 22 August 2011 23 August 2011 24 August 2011 25 August 2011 26 August 2011 27 August 2011 28 August 2011 29 August 2011 30 August 2011 31 August 2011

Every image that Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara paints would make sense outside of the context of art. On the surface, they are simply numbers, letters, dates, maps and routes, first names and surnames, and newspaper clippings. They could have come from day planners, calendars, scrapbooks, or rosters. In On Kawara: 10 Tableaux and 16,952 Pages, from the Dallas Museum of Art, they represent a formidable boy of work that challenges “the very idea of what it means to be alive and sentient in the world.” His best-known works are his Date Paintings, which looks exactly the way it sounds: he paints a picture of the numerical and alphabetical date of day on which he is working. If he does not finish the painting on the same day he started it, he destroys it. (No one seems to know exactly how he “destroys” it, though perhaps it is enough to know that he routinely erases an entire day’s work.)

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Kawara dares his audience to reconsider its members’ place in time, Earth’s place in the space, the universe’s place in other dimensions, and so on. He began the Date Paintings in 1966, although one of the most important paintings from the series is the one he made a few years later, when man first walked on the moon. Once humans saw Earth as a whole, as a planet comprised of all its systems, our interpretations of our role in place and time changed forever. It is also well-documented that the 1960s were a time of reinvention in which artists began to question all beliefs and traditions in their society. By making his viewers focus on an exact date from the past, Kawara wants them to imagine all the details from that particular day rather than just generalizing about an era. Much of his work, for example, lets us know where he went and what he did on the day that he created each piece. As we consider the importance of that single day, we will find ourselves asking, “Does it matter how much time has passed?”

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