The date paintings are accompanied by boxes that Kawara housed them in, each one lined with a newspaper clipping from the day it was created. These framed clippings are more evocative and particular mementos of Kawara’s days, taken as single entities. To the modern eye, the headlines they bear are hauntingly familiar. “ISRAELI JETS FIGHT EGYPTIAN PLANES OVER SUEZ CANAL,” shouts the New York Times clip that lines the box for Jan. 5, 1970; for Feb. 11, 1970, “TEXT OF THE PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE TO CONGRESS PROPOSING ACTION AGAINST POLLUTION.” A clip from February 22nd reports the crash of an Israel-bound plane after a bomb exploded aboard, killing all passengers; two days later, an ad reads, “Some people think our noon Royal Hawaiian flight is our most beautiful nonstop to Los Angeles.” It’s here, in the curated collection of paraphernalia from the days he documented, that one can trace Kawara’s thinking as he crafted these works.
Kawara’s persistence is staggering. Lined up in consecutive order, the paintings lure viewers up the Guggenheim’s spiral, inviting them to march on, through the onslaught of documentation. In the moments of its most intense repetition, this documentation turns desperate. In the alcove that inaugurates the presentation of Kawara’s near-daily telegrams to a host of friends, most bearing the simple message “I AM STILL ALIVE,” three framed telegrams are set apart from the others. Taken together, their texts create an ambiguous but frantic narrative: “I AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE DONT WORRY”; “I AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE WORRY”; “I AM GOING TO SLEEP FORGET IT.”