On Kawara is a Japanese conceptual artist best known for his time-related work, including Date and One Million Years. Born in 1933 in the town of Kariya, Japan, Kawara moved to Tokyo in 1952 in an attempt to escape the total devastation of World War II. At 19, he produced his first set of works. The group was entitled “Bathroom” and was a series of sketches portraying horrifically mutilated victims of the war.
Kawara moved to New York in 1965, where he began work on his ongoing Today series, in which he painted between 63 and 241 “date painting” a year. Each painting contains the date it was painted in white against a solid background. Kawara adjusts the language and syntax of the date depending on where he is in the world when he paints it. For example, a work completed in Monte Carlo reads “13 JUIN 2006.” Each painting must be started and completed on the same day or else it is discarded, so each piece is a literal representation of a day in the life of the artist.
Since the initiation of the Today series, Kawara has completed several other conceptual art series, including a group of postcards that he sent from various locations around the world, informing the recipients of the precise time he woke up on that particular day. Kawara’s first exhibition was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in 1953. Since then he has been part of exhibitions all over the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Dia Center for the Arts in New York. The entire Today series is a promised gift to the Dia Art Foundation.