Illus. throughout. Total of 4790 pp. 12 vols. Thick 4to (217 x 156 mm.), uniform gray cloth, titles on spines. Brussels: Editions Micheline Szwajcer & Michèle Didier, 2004.
The massive and rare reproduction of the On Kawara’s I Met series (1968-79); signed by the artist. During this period, Kawara (1932-2014, i.e., 29,771 days) documented every single person with whom he conversed in the course of a day. He eventually grew tired of the practice, as did some of his closest friends (explained below), but it ended only when Kawara’s attaché case containing the rubber stamps integral to several of his works was stolen at a bank in Stockholm. Besides Walther König’s facsimile (1992, edition of 300) of Kawara’s I Went, I Met, I Read of the year 1969, the present set is the sole re-publication of I Met authorized by the artist and his estate.
This facsimile of Kawara’s original unique work was produced in an edition of 100 numbered and signed copies (including 10 A.P.); he has signed the colophon of the final volume. Kawara signed the “Date Paintings” comprising the Today series, otherwise examples of his signature are all but unattainable.
The Guggenheim’s exhibition catalogue Silence (p. 129) spells out the original unique work: “The I Met series, begun on the same day as the I Got Up series, notes in chronological order the names of the people with whom On Kawara conversed during the course of each day. Each page consists of a list of names typed into a single column centered on a sheet of paper with the date stamped at the bottom. Loose-leaf binders, two for each year, gather the pages in transparent plastic sleeves; binders contain at least one list of names per day, with intercity travel marked by an extra sheet indicating the new location…
“I Met represents a conjunction of two of Kawara’s fundamental interests: language and travel. His peregrinations brought him into constant contact with new people, and he at times had difficulty remembering unfamiliar Western names. As a result, he often asked people to give him their business cards or write down their names to help him memorize them. In 1968, during his extended stay at a Mexico City hotel frequented by international students and artists, Kawara encountered a particularly wide variety of names and languages. One day, struck by a name of Hispanic origin as written on a business card, he recalled a challenge posed to him by his friend Kasper König: write a poem that could be understood anywhere in the world. The name seemed to him a kind of readymade poem, comprehensible anywhere, and with König’s proposition in mind, he realized that the international language he’d been seeking could be found in names…
“The people listed in I Met include not only shop and hotel clerks, waiters, and bartenders, but, of course, the people to whom he was closest. The names of a group of friends in New York with whom Kawara played mah-jongg, for example, appear often throughout the early years of the series, both concluding and beginning a number of the lists. As in Kawara’s other works, the day begins and ends at midnight, so anyone he was with at that hour appears on two consecutive pages…
“Early exhibitions of I Met caused occasional trouble for some of Kawara’s associates, providing circumstantial evidence of indiscretions - when someone’s name appeared in a strange city, for example, or in a suspicious configuration with certain others. Eventually Kawara too seemed to come to find it tiresome to reveal so much of his personal life. When the attaché case carrying his rubber stamps was stolen from him in a bank on a trip to Stockholm, depriving him of the materials needed to continue I Met, I Got Up, and I Went, Kawara took the opportunity to bring all three series to a close. The end date for each of these works is September 17, 1979.”
All of the volumes are in fine condition; a few trivial scuffs. With the publisher’s original cardboard box. WorldCat records but one copy of I Met, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (gift of Thomas H. Bjarnason).
❧ Jeffrey Weiss, ed., Silence (2015).
Item ID: 7749