The Daily Pic: On Kawara, Our Great Portraitist

Our critic shows that the conceptualist was in fact a master of the self-portrait.

On Kawara Jan. 4, 1966


Jul 29, 2014

 This is the very first of the “date” paintings by On Kawara, out of the thousands he’s made since 1966. (Click on the image to expand it.) It is on view in a show that opened today at David Zwirner gallery in New York, along with another 165 canvases from this “Today” series  – including the very latest one. They are usually positioned as austere, rule-bound conceptual art of a distinctly philosophical bent, but I prefer to see them as well within the tradition of the artist’s self-portrait. After all, each one is hand-painted by Kawara himself on the date he inscribes on its surface, meaning that they register his brush-wielding presence in the world, over a specific span of studio time, in much the same way that a mirror-painted portrait does. For lots more on Kawara and his show, see my feature on today’s Daily Beast.

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