Executed with a palpable sense of warmth, the glowing red surface of January 9, 1986 is an exceptional example of the coloured monochromes that Kawara produced during two intense periods of creativity; the first of which began in 1967, soon after he began working on the series, and continuing in 1977 after a hiatus of ten years during which time he used darker hues almost exclusively. On Kawara's Date Paintings are quiet meditations on the fundamental nature of time and the personal nature of history. Executed in just one day, on the date shown, each work adheres to a strict formula in terms of both aesthetic and production methods; all paintings have to be executed in the same precise manner and before midnight on the day in question and any work that fails to live up to these exacting formal and chronographic standards is destroyed.
The formal simplicity of Kawara's aesthetics combined with the complexity of their execution produces a multifaceted work, rich in resonance and meaning. As Kawara limits his presence to a great extent, the beholder is encouraged to integrate his own experiences into the painting and invest it with his own memories of the particular date delineated. Setting out on a mental journey through time to a moment that is forever lost, he is brought to an understanding of life's fleeting brevity and immeasurable beauty in a meditation that is nothing short of profound.
The immaculate surface of January 9, 1986 is the result of a precise and time consuming process by which Kawara slowly builds up and then reduces layers of acrylic paint to produce a flawless surface. Almost in a meditative manner, four coats of paint are carefully applied to the surface of the canvas, each given the correct amount of time to be allowed to dry before slowly being rubbed down in preparation for the subsequent layer. This precise method of execution intensifies the colour as the paint is first applied in a skilled fashion with course brush, migrating down to a finer gradation using a very fine brush for the final paint layer. On this surface, outlines of the texts are then carefully drawn and filled in with several coats of white paint with the use of tapered brushes, a ruler and set-square and an X-Acto blade.
Kawara continues with this highly detailed level of craftsmanship by making, by hand, a box in which each work is stored. These vessels also contain an item, usually in the form of a page or clipping from a newspaper published on the day the work was executed. In the case of January 9, 1986, the box contains a page from the 'Positions Vacant' section of The New York Times showing more than a hundred vacancies for Clerks, Book-keepers and Tellers in the financial services industry; the strict typography and geometry of the display advertising neatly mirroring the formal aspects of Kawara's own composition. SJ