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UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: THE ART OF ON KAWARA

KEEPING TRACK was what On Kawara did best. Whether it was paintings of calendar dates or leather-bound volumes of maps and years, he elevated due diligence to high art. But while his Conceptualist contemporaries tended to vigilantly police the type and number of references in their works, Kawara named names and places in ways that made such data seem like clues to an unfathomable mystery. These snippets of information supposedly granted us access to the inner life of the famously publicity-shy artist, whose silence many regarded as an invitation to consider him an oracle.

It would have been hard not to. Dates, maps, lists: All took on a poetic cast when seen as a Kawara telegram, painting, or postcard. The works looked as if they had a great deal to say about the world in which they and their audiences lived. Yet if viewers found abstract ideas about life, death, mobility, and communication

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