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Label: on kawara

Tuesday 15th July 2014Artist Spotlight: On Kawara, Retrospective

Typically, when we write these artist spotlight pieces, we're pointing out a new and exciting artist that it's well worth keeping an eye on, or someone whose career might not have caught your eye before now. In today's post, however, we're going to break from that tradition a little bit and take a look back at the life and times and work of On Kawara, who passed away recently, on July 10, 2014. It seems fitting, given that much of Kawara's work centered around themes of life, time, and mortality. Even the tweet shown above is a sample of that work, a Twitter bot which regularly posted the same message every day. Sadly, it now serves as an epitaph for the late artist, albeit a fitting one - after all, art is a creation that lives on past our own time of existence, and takes on a greater shape than we can hope to control.

Born in Kariya, Japan, in 1933, Kawara was a teenager when the atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending World War II and scarring Japan and its citizens. This seemed to provide much of the impetus for his early work, which focused (as much of the Japanese art at the time did) on the impacts of those devastating events, incorporating horrendous imagery of disfiguration and dismemberment. Eventually, however, this would grow to change over time, another fitting development for an artist who grew to be fascinated by the march of time and how we interact with it.

Perhaps the series for which Kawara is most famous is the Today series, which is arguably a sample of conceptualist rigor that continued throughout his entire career. It simply consists of a painting created every day with the date, rendered in exquisitely hand-drawn letters and numbers in sans serif font, done in whatever format is appropriate for the location of the artist at the time of creation. However, Kawara had a great many shows, in both solo and group formats, at galleries around the world.

Eventually, Kawara took up residence in New York City, where he died on the 10th of July. It would have been interesting to see a version of the Today series painted while on a long-haul flight between New York City and Tokyo, as crossing the international dateline and the different date formats between the two nations would have uniquely highlighted the dichotomies inherent in this beguilingly simple series. Regardless, Kawara will be missed.

Posted on July 15th 2014 on 05:07pm
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