ON KAWARA (1932-2014)
ON KAWARA (1932-2014)
ON KAWARA (1932-2014)
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Property from the Collection of Celia Marriott
ON KAWARA (1932-2014)

DEC. 11, 1975, from Today, 1966-2013

ON KAWARA (1932-2014)
DEC. 11, 1975, from Today, 1966-2013
signed 'On Kawara' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas, with handmade cardboard box with newspaper
18 x 24 ¼ in. (45.7 x 61.6 cm.)
Executed in 1975.
Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
Celia Marriott, Chicago, 1980
By descent from the above to the present owner
C. Höfer, On Kawara: Date Paintings in Private Collections, Köln, 2009, n.p. (illustrated).

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Julian Ehrlich
Julian Ehrlich Associate Vice President, Specialist, Head of Post-War to Present Sale

Lot Essay

DEC. 11, 1975 is a testament to On Kawara’s five decades-long commitment and meditation on time and routine. For his Date Paintings, On Kawara completed each work in one day, reflected through the date shown on the canvas. If the work was not finished by midnight, he destroyed it. This dedication to repeated format and established practice served as a monument to each passing 24-hour period.

As part of his typical process, DEC. 11, 1975 was painted on a rectangular canvas with white text on a dark background, standardized through variations of dark gray, blue, or red. While seemingly simplified, each Date Painting required a specific painting process, as part of Kawara’s ritual. Beginning with the background, Kawara would apply four coats of color, allowing for drying time in between each coat and perfecting each layer with fine detailing. Once the background was complete, Kawara would then draw the date and fill it in with multiple layers of white paint. Kawara would always express the date in the language native to where he was at the time of the painting’s creation; the present lot, written in English, as it was painted by Kawara in New York City.

A cardboard box with a copy of The New York Times from the date of the painting accompanies the canvas, displaying the obituaries and TV listings in The New York Times from December 11th, 1975. Through the inclusion of the newspaper, Kawara conflates high and low art and the handmade and the mechanical, while also highlighting each day as a delineation of time. There are objective realities of the day, as noted in the newspaper articles, and subjective realities that can only be experienced and remembered by the individual.

Born in 1932, Kawara’s childhood was marred by the catastrophic use of atomic bombs by Allied forces on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The events of 1945 had a significant impact on the artist. When relationality failed him, the concepts of time and ritual became means for the artist to process both the brevity of life but also its boundlessness.

On Kawara’s DEC. 11, 1975 was prominently featured in art lecturer and filmmaker Celia Marriott’s Chicago apartment. When Marriott asked friends and architects, Ron Kureck and Mark Sexton, to design the home, she requested the place itself feel like a work of art. The home came to be known as Painted Apartment, a masterpiece of art and design, where the art was the focal point.

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