To really get a sense of Kawara’s oeuvre and the resulting monumentality of his process, I find it is worth noting down his projects in list form (kind of), if only to just notice the life span of each series and his commitment to his work. Thinking Man and The Bathroom are some of his earliest works. Title (1965) marks the beginning of his conceptual and minimalist turn.
But first, if one were to count the time span of each work—beginning with the work that marks his new direction—this is how the numbers look:
1 | 49 | 29 | 11 | 11 | 30 | 1
We end up with a “1” as bookends. The beginning and the end.
Except that if we look closer, as I have, naturally, while Title is dated as a work made in 1965, it was actually started in 1964. So what at first appeared a magical coincidence, perhaps starts to reveal itself as a constructed reality–a subjective interpretation of beginnings and endings. But then again, does Title lack the seriality of the other works? I suppose in a way it does. The work is made up of three paintings, which need each other to be complete. To conclude then, Title does not appear to be a serial work the way Kawara’s subsequent projects take on the concept of time. Enough of that…here’s Kawara’s list of works:
1952: Thinking Man, a painting, one of his earliest exhibited works
1953-54: The Bathroom, a set of paintings
1965: Title, consists of 3 word/phrase-based paintings depicting the words: One Thing, 1965, Viet-nam (made from 1964-65). View image here.
1965-2014: Today Series, nearly 3000 works produced, paintings and a calendar. The Date Paintings are part of this series and “consist of the date of composition, hand-painted in sans-serif font, against a monochrome background.” Dimensions range from 8″ x 10″ to 61″ x 89″; also part of this series is 100 Years Calendar (1984) which “mark[ed] each day of Kawara’s life when a painting was successfully produced.”
1966-1995: I Read series, consisting “of a set of grey binders filled with annotated clippings from the newspapers which Kawara read over a period of almost thirty years. A new page of clippings was added for each day on which a Date Painting was composed.”
1968-79: I Got Up series. “Every day between 1968 and 1979, Kawara sent postcards to two different recipients, hand-stamped with a message informing them of the time at which he had got up that morning (or afternoon). These were conventional picture postcards, often showing touristy images of New York or other cities, delivered using conventional mail or courier services. The I Got Up project ended after eleven years because Kawara’s stamping materials were stolen; though they were later returned, the project was never recommenced.”
1968-79: I Met series. “an exhaustive record of all the people whom the artist spoke to during that period, from friends and colleagues to strangers. The names are typed in single-column lists, with each page representing one day. If Kawara met someone at midnight, they would appear both at the end of the previous day’s list and at the start of the next one. The lists are stored in twenty-four bound volumes, each page stamped with the relevant date.”
1970-2000: I Am Still Alive series. “…a series of telegrams sent intermittently over a thirty-year period to a wide range of recipients, including figures within the art world, bearing the message “I Am Still Alive”. The work itself consists not only of the various iterations of the statement, but the formal and visual features of the various telegrams to which it was affixed – dependent on where it was sent to and from, the company used to submit it, and other unpredictable details – and the vagaries of the delivery process itself.”
1999: One Million series. “…two books, One Million Years: Past (For All Those Who Have Lived and Died) and One Million Years: Future (For The Last One). The books list, respectively, the one million years before the artwork was conceived, and the one million years afterwards, and are composed of text cut, pasted and photocopied by the artist. The One Million Years project also involves a performance element, presented each time the books are exhibited, involving a male speaker and a female speaker reading dates from the book, aloud, in turn. This was first done at Kawara’s solo exhibition at the Dia Art Foundation in 1993.”
All quoted text is from The Art Story, a very accessible reference site to explore art movements and artists.