Must Read: ‘The Lives They Lived’ (On Kawara)

On the this best year-end/New Year’s reflections is, as always, the New York Times’ Magazine’s The Lives They Lived, brief stories of incredibly original lives of famous and unknown that passed away in 2014.  If you don’t have subscription access to the Times, use your free monthly read (whatever it is) to go here and scroll down the bargain page of 30 extraordinary —often inspiring — lives.

For us one of the most startling: artist On Kawara —whose Date Paintings we have featured —, the very private and elusive conceptual artist who, over the course of three decades, sent out over 900 telegrams with the message:

I am still alive.

As Dean Robinson writes:

‘I am still alive.’ Say it once, make it the only message on a telegram, and it’s a mystery. Jubilant affirmation? Avowal of defiance? Say it often enough, and it becomes another thing as well…

…If you say some things often enough, they ensure their own truth.


On Kawara’s words are a curious affirmation.


Top image: “Telegram to Klaus Honnef, May 21, 1971,” from the “I Am Still Alive” series. Photograph by Anatoly Stepanko via David Zwirner.

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