Japanese painter, draughtsman and conceptual artist, active in the USA. After graduating from Kariya High School in 1951, he moved to Tokyo, exhibiting at the Yomiuri Independent Exhibitions. His sensibility for a cold materialism became apparent in his series of drawings Bathroom, of dismembered grotesque nude bodies (1953–4; Tokyo, N. Mus. Mod. A.). Kawara went to Mexico in 1959 and travelled through Europe. He settled in New York in 1965. His renowned series of Date Paintings (from 1965), made in various cities on his travels, juxtapose a detail from a local newspaper with a simple record of the date in typographical letters and numbers on monochrome canvases using acrylic. The paintings’ principal meaning was that the artist and viewer shared the numbers that signified a date they both had lived. In the series of telegrams in the 1970s, which sent the message ‘I am still alive’ to his friends, he used the verification of his own existence as a statement in a medium whose abstraction, regardless of the artist’s hand, paradoxically gave his work a tense reality. His other work in book form, One Million Years (Past, 1970–71; and Future, 1980; both artist’s col., see 1980 exh. cat., pp. 116–23, 124–9), consists of one million years typewritten year by year. Such works exploring concepts of time and space led Kawara to be regarded as a leading conceptual artist.
From Grove Art Online
© 2009 Oxford University Press