Whole and Parts, 1964-1995 was the most comprehensive retrospective exhibition that had ever been held on the work of On Kawara (Kariya, Aichi-ken, Japan, 1933), who is considered one of the key figures of conceptual art.
The exhibition brought together his most representative series including paintings, telegrams and postcards. The works in the show included One Million Years - Past and One Million Years – Future, filing cabinets consisting of the dates of the million years that had just gone by and the upcoming million years; the Date Paintings series that consist of the date when the work was produced, written in the language of the place where the artist was at the time; the autobiographical series I Read, I Went, I Met, I Got Up; and the telegrams I am Still Alive.
On Kawara’s work resists classification and cannot simply be considered as a conceptualisation of time and space based on language and signs. It contains references to movement and travel, but also to the cancellation of the difference between that which we see and that which we read. In the words of Jean Louis Maubant – who curated the exhibition with Pascal Pique – “The work functions like a portable metaphysics handbook that can be used by each and every one of us, however little we may be disposed towards interrogation.”