On Kawara


“Again and Against” was conceived by Kasper König, based on a series of 23 works made by On Kawara. König’s idea was to select a single work by a German artist to correspond to each work made by Kawara. König’s idea stipulated that each pair of works be made during the same year, and he invited curators Suzanne Chez from the United States and Fumio Nanjo from Japan to make selections based on this principle, for exhibits in their respective countries. Although the concept at first seemed uncomplicated, it posed a considerable challenge. It was extremely difficult to select only one work by one artist to represent each year.

Nanjo succeeded in making a selection that revealed his ideas about the developments of Japanese art from 1966 to 1988. The works of Gempei Akasegawa, Jiro Takamatsu, Jun Mizukami, Norio Imai, Hitoshi Nomura and Tatsuo Kawaguchi evoke the memory of a period during the early ’70s when the Japanese art world was very much in touch with international developments. Kawaguchi’s Stone and Light, 1971, refers to the artist’s earlier earthworks. Imai’s Daily Portrait, 1979, consists of a number of Plexiglas boxes containing a chronologically documented series of the artist’s Polaroid self-portrait. Only the photographs on the top are visible, the remainder can only be imagined.

Kenji Uematsu’s series of five photographs, “The Measurement Landscape I,” 1976, shows him measuring shadows. Hirabayashi’s “Gojuu-ichi-on/Katakana” 1986, a series of drawings based on the Japanese syllabary, breathes “Japaneseness.” Miyajima’s installation Counter Line, 1988, on the other hand, which consists of an almost endless string of flashing digital numbers, seems more connected with the international art world. It was no accident that Nanjo selected a large number of serial works. In fact, the decision is perfectly in keeping with the character of Kawara’s 23 works. It is also a form of art frequently used by Japanese artists.

Sabrina Kamstra