On Today | Wednesday December 12 1979

Japanese artist On Kawara (December 24, 1932 – July 10, 2014) was a Japanese conceptual artist who lived in New York City from 1965. Kawara belonged to a broadly international generation of conceptual artists that began to emerge in the mid-1960s, stripping art of personal emotion, reducing it to nearly pure information or idea and greatly playing down the art object.

  • Wednesday, Dec. 12. 1979 (1979) synthetic polymer paint on canvas and artist-made cardboard box. (MOMA).
  • This work belongs to On Kawara’s Today series, which consists of thousands of ‘date paintings’ made between 1966 and the artist’s death in 2014.

To create the starkly uniform series, Kawara adhered to a precise set of rules. Each painting executed in Liquitex on canvas, depicts the date when it was painted. The text, inscribed in white paint against a dark monochromatic background conforms to one of eight standard sizes, ranging from 8×10 inches to 61×89 inches; all horizontal in orientation. Many of the canvases are accompanied by a handmade cardboard box lined with newspaper clippings from the same day and location. If a work was not completed by midnight, it was destroyed.

By diligently repeating the same process for almost five decades, Kawara succeeded in tangibly representing this abstract concept of time itself.

When Kawara died in New York on July 10, 2014 (at the age of 81) his published obituary stated that he was alive for 29,771 days rather than giving his dates of birth and death.

Life and Death | An abstract concept of time itself!

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