"James Lee Byars: 1/2 an Autobiography"

Critics' pick
James Lee
ARTIST: Byars, James Lee NATIONALITY: United States DATE_OF_WORK: 1970 MATERIALS: black-and-white photograph DIMENSIONS: 7 x 5 CREDIT_LINE: University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; bequest of James Elliott
One of the more enigmatic figures of American art over the past 45 years, Byars (1932–1997) was a performance and installation artist whose injection of Zen philosophy into his peculiar mix of Minimal and Conceptual Art set him apart from his contemporaries within the highly experimental milieu that was the late-’60s–early-’70s art world. A seeker of perfection in both the formal and spiritual sense, he created work that could be opulent and austere, with reductively abstract sculptures—or even the walls of an entire space—covered in gold. His work sometimes seems like artifacts from an ancient civilization. This survey is his first in North America since his death.
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