“Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept time absolutely” (W. Whitman, “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass, 1855).
“I collect the painted days,” wrote On Kawara (O. Kawara quoted in S. Morgan, “On Kawara: The Recording Angel,” Frieze, Issue 33, March-April 1997, n.p.). The seminal Japanese artist archived the days of his life—the days of our shared modernity—in paint in the Today series, a body of work that has become a widely recognized touchstone for Conceptual Art. To make a date painting, Kawara ritualistically painted the canvas with the date and the year of the painting’s making, abbreviating the date on the canvas in accordance with local orthography. Each painting was created in a single day; if it was not completed by midnight, On Kawara destroyed it. This highly disciplined process made each date painting a literal documentation of time’s passage that day. Kawara began this historic series on January 4, 1966, the same year that the present work, OCT. 25, 1966, was made; interestingly, Kawara did not sell any of the 1966 paintings, electing instead to give a small and select number to friends and to keep all remaining works.
The subtitle of the present painting reads, like all paintings from this period, as a page from the Artist's diary. While the physical form of the painting is an idealized symbol representing October 25, 1966, Kawara's choice of subtitle conceptually grounds the painting in the context of shared human events that had both personal significance for him and universal significance for global society; Picasso's 85th birthday and the Manila Manifesto. The Manila Manifesto was an idealistic plan for peace and reconciliation in Vietnam including the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in six months.
For the viewer, the distillation of a day in time represented by the painting provides the basis to force a reflection on the passage of time and his own therefore his own mortality. The painting bears witness as we all do to subsequent days and events; the birth of a child, the flux of political landscapes and social mores, etc. With the passage of time, the viewer's physical self will age and decay--a force to which the painting is also subject--but one's conscious is as Kawara's conceptual framework: timeless and unchanging. October 25, 1966 is a primal, minimalist manifestation of the most basic element of human expression: "I am alive".