01.26.2015
By Markets Media Life

On Kawara—Silence

By May Zhee Lim, Markets Media Life Correspondent

The Guggenheim Museum is displaying the first comprehensive exhibition of works by Japanese Conceptual artist On Kawara. On Kawara—Silence runs from February 6 to May 3 and includes his famous monochromatic Date Paintings, telegrams, stamped postcards, city maps, and other works that invite viewers to contemplate the place and time the art was created.

On Kawara JAN. 4, 1966 “New York’s traffic strike.” New York From Today, 1966–2013 Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm) Private collection Photo: Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

On Kawara
JAN. 4, 1966
“New York’s traffic strike.”
New York
From Today, 1966–2013
Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm)
Private collection
Photo: Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Kawara, who died last year at an undisclosed date, was a prolific and intensely disciplined artist. The main focus of the exhibition is his Today series, which consist of 150 Date Paintings, created over the course of seven decades following rigorous protocols. Each painting is a date inscribed in white acrylic paint against a stark blue, red, or dark gray background. Displayed alongside many of these paintings are the artist’s handmade storage boxes that he lined with cuttings from the daily paper, which gives us a sense of the time these paintings were made.

On Kawara JUN 10 1975 From I Got Up, 1968–79 Stamped ink on postcard, 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches (8.9 x 4 cm) Collection of Keiji and Sawako Usami

On Kawara
JUN 10 1975
From I Got Up, 1968–79
Stamped ink on postcard, 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches (8.9 x 4 cm)
Collection of Keiji and Sawako Usami

His other series are similarly terse and declarative: I Got Up, I Went, I Met, and I Am Still Alive, which consist of 100 telegrams delivered between 1969 and 2000, each carrying his simple message to the world: ”I AM STILL ALIVE.” On the surface, Kawara’s art may seem purely a practice in recordkeeping, but it also reveals the many paradoxes that manifest in art and life. The Date Paintings signify both a present and a past, and Kawara’s methodical and biographical tracking of the dates in his life turn out to be the most impersonal thing about his art.

The Guggenheim Museum is located at 1071 Fifth Avenue. General admission to the Guggenheim is $22 for adults and $18 for students/seniors (65+). Members and children under 12 get in for free. Museum Hours: Sun–Wed, 10 am–5:45 pm; Fri, 10 am–5:45 pm; Sat, 10 am–7:45 pm; closed Thurs. On Saturdays, beginning at 5:45 pm, the museum hosts Pay What You Wish.

Featured image via David Heald/The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

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