James Lee Byars — Conceptual Art
“James Lee Byars ( 1932- 1997)was an American conceptual artist and performance artist specializing in installations and sculptures, as well as a self-considered mystic. He was best known for his use of personal esoteric motifs, and his creative persona that has been described as ‘half dandified trickster and half minimalist seer’.
Byars’ works are often noted as constantly incorporating specific personal themes and motifs, leaning towards the esoteric while simultaneously being ritualistic and materialistic: Robert Clark, writing for The Guardian on the occasion of a Milton Keynes exhibition of his work, described it as ‘impenetrably yet intriguingly hermetic’.Most in particular was gold as a material, which served as an elemental identifier. As well as this, works of his demonstrate a fascination with the symbolism of numbers: Clark quotes in the same exhibition, referring to a specific piece of his, writing that he ‘imbued the number 100 with symbolic significance, having made a symmetrical arrangement of 100 white marbles and draping 100 nude volunteers in a collective red garment’.A common theme in his works is perfection (especially upon the word ‘Perfect’), which he extended into a personal journey that led to his ambiguously celebratory exploration of shapes, numbers and precious materials. A MoMA text explaining his oeuvre, in the context of his piece The Table of Perfect, noted that while it “looks pristine, it — like any other object — can only ever exist as a sign of perfection and can never embody the total concept.”