On Kawara: DAVID ZWIRNER

By O'Neill-Butler, Lauren | Artforum International, March 2012 | Go to article overview

On Kawara: DAVID ZWIRNER


O'Neill-Butler, Lauren, Artforum International


This year, On Kawara will enter his eighth decade of being still alive. For more than half his life, he has been producing the rigidly formulaic " ibday" paintings, his most enduring body of work. The series remains key (and is the earliest) among the diari/ing projects he began between the mid-1960s and the early '70s--from the cryptic, deadpan telegrams that broadcast the quotidian facts of his life or confirmed his continuing existence ("I Am Still Alive," 1970-ca. 2005) to the postcards that announce when he rose from bed ("I Got Up/1 1968-79), Now numbering in the thousands, the "Today" canvases each display the date of their creation in white, sans-serif font on a monochrome ground. The artist eschews personal details yet allows the viewer to trace his location at different points in time, since the dates are rendered according to the dating conventions and language of the country in which the painting was made.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Date Painting(s) in New York and 136 Other Cities," presented more than 150 entries from "Today." One wing of the gallery hosted canvases created in New York City, these in an assortment of colors and sizes, their dates commencing January 4, 1966, and continuing into 2012, with new ones added during the course of the exhibition; another wing offered a selection of date paintings made in other cities, all much smaller, at five by seven inches. (Painting at this scale was a requirement of working on the road: Kawara needed to transport the works home.) The canvases' varying colors--red and blue, but mostly black--proved to be the most eye-catching aspect of the show, the capricious choice of color always creating a compelling friction against Kawara's rigid format and the self-imposed rule that each work must be finished before midnight or be destroyed. …

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