On Getting Up and Giving Up: On Kawara's Lost Luggage
Spike Art Quarterly 42 (Winter 2014/2015): 56–67.
No one can say exactly when the stamped phrase reappeared. Until very recently, there didn’t seem much reason to ask. Those who recognized it assumed it was a harmless homage to the late On Kawara (1933–2014), too indiscriminately executed to qualify as a forgery. Kawara was best known for spare, serial reassertions of his existence – so spare as to include only the date, printed in block letters on a monochrome field in his “Today” series, or the phrase i am still alive, sent by telegram. The artist sustained many of these works over decades, their conclusion arriving only with his death. The stamps, however, were used for a shorter-lived series initiated in 1968: postcards sent by Kawara to two different addressees every day, with the words i got up stamped upon them along with the time and location where Kawara had roused himself.
When the phrase turned up in past years, stamped in library books and other circulating documents, the art world generally considered it a mere send-up that, lacking the original’s geographic and biographic precision, warranted no serious investigation. Recent examination by conservators, however, has confirmed that the rubber stamp used to produce these imitations was the very same one that Kawara used for I GOT UP (1968–1979). Through library records, it has been possible to trace a telling handful of these stamps to long-time Indianapolis resident Paul Masselli, who passed away earlier this year. Masselli, a small business owner with no evident interest in the arts, seems to have had no knowledge of Kawara’s oeuvre, yet, curiously, began disseminating the stamp’s message at least two decades ago in an unwitting sham of Kawara’s original proposition....
On Kawara, DEC 24 1978, from the series "I Got Up," 1978
Courtesy Lili König Collection