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On Kawara was a Japanese Conceptual artist whose works engage the personal and historical consciousness of time and states of existence. His work concentrated on documenting the moments in the passage of time through a consistent form of presentation, which was intentionally devoid of artist’s personal emotion. Kawara was born in 1932, raised in an intellectual family environment informed by aspects of Buddhist, Shinto, and Christian religion. In common with Japanese society as a whole, he was greatly affected by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which occurred when he was a teenager, and which left him deeply unsettled, questioning the moral values underpinning human society. Kawara began traveling around the world in 1959, before settling in New York in 1965, where he lived for the rest of his career. He is best known for his prolific output of works that document time and place. Kawara first touched on these themes with his Today series, begun in 1965, and consisting of black canvases painted with the day’s date in white lettering; some works oppose the painted date and a page from a local newspaper, demonstrating the day lived as one universal connection between artist and viewer. He created a piece every day for the series, varying language based on what country he was in at the time. Kawara reached international fame in 1971 with his exhibition One Million Years, which traveled to Düsseldorf, Milan, and Paris; it exhibited works featuring books of typewritten pages listing one million years, year by year. In other works, such as I Am Still Alive, Kawara sent a telegram bearing the message “I Am Still Alive” to his friends, characteristic of his central themes of marking time and existence through art. Kawara exhibited his work at several documenta exhibitions in Kassel, at the Dia Art Foundation in New York, the Venice Biennale, the Kyoto Biennale, and the Tokyo Biennale, among others. He was awarded the Kunstpreis Aachen and the Carnegie Prize.  On July 10, 2014, On Kawara died in New York City, ending his lifelong practice that influenced the discourse of conceptual art.

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On Kawara

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