James Lee Byars ½ an Autobiography. P.S. 1
This is a wide open somewhat large look at what some in the art world call a mythical figure while others label him a dandy. I wish I found more to like in this rambling retrospective, but most of his objects left me cold and dry, and wondering why him. There are many darkly lit rooms and galleries, exactly the kind of environments I really dislike, but I dared to enter them anyway since much of the exhibition took place in these spaces so what choice did I have?. This is the kind of exhibition that this museum has a fondness for kinetic, busy, artistically lit and somewhat threating that incorporate expensive looking manufactured objects and things that look like that have not been touched by human hands. This show fulfills that fondness and to be fair I did like some of his work with my preference being his early pieces that he did when living in Kyoto in 1958 where he got busy doing elegant scrolls and large lovely black ink drawings of forms on Japanese rice paper and I wish there were more of them shown. Also quite marvelous were the large figure like sculpture made of pieces of wood with a tiny ball for a head that is laid out like a corpse in a dimly lit gallery and the medium sized stone painted in rich black paint which is also laid on the floor. He also dabbled in performance and had a standout presence in his bowler like hats and gold lamé suit, that he would sometimes wear around and at art world functions , the suit by the way is in the show hanging in one of the galleries, and there are several videos of Byars wearing his trademark like hats. Fun. There are also several cases of letters and documents that have become de rigueur in many contemporary museum shows, regardless of how dull and incompressible they are. Most of the letters and such are to the famous museum curator Dorothy C. Miller who Byars charmed and delighted with his fragile pieces. The show is up only until Sept 7th so rush to the no. 7 subway line if you have a need to see it.