On Kawara has based the entirety of his collection of books, paintings, and drawings on the arbitrariness and subjectivity of the way we measure time. Many of his projects are ongoing, making Kawara himself, as the recorder of time, one of the primary materials in his conceptual works. Kawara is perhaps best known for the “date paintings” in his Today series (1966-), each of which conforms to one of eight predetermined sizes and features a date in hand-lettered typography painted over a monochromatic background. The artist completed the canvases while living or staying in over 100 cities around the world. Each date painting is displayed with a handcrafted cardboard box and a clipping from a newspaper published in the same city and on the same day that the artist made the work. Kawara continues to create new works in the series.
“Today” series, 1966-2013
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm)
One Million Years (Past), 1970-1971
10 leather hardbound volumes 2,000 pages
On Kawara: Reading One Million Years (Past and Future)
installed at documenta 11, Kassel, Germany in 2002
Pages from One Million Years (Future) One Million Years (Future), 1980-1998
10 leather hardbound volumes, 2,000 pages
Kawara’s interest in how our society uses dates to grasp time’s elusiveness can be seen in the two–volume book project One Million Years. The first book, Past, is dedicated to “all those who have lived and died,” and covers the years from 998,031 BC to 1969 AD. The second book, Future, is dedicated to “the last one,” and begins with the year 1993 AD and ends with the year 1,001,992 AD. At the request of the artist, portions of the books have been read aloud in locations around the world. A recording of these readings is part of Kawara’s installation here.