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date: 17 November 2019

Byars, James Leelocked

(b Detroit, MI, May 10, 1932; d Cairo, Egypt, June 23, 1997).
  • Klaus Ottmann

Extract

(b Detroit, MI, May 10, 1932; d Cairo, Egypt, June 23, 1997).

American sculptor, performance artist, and installation artist. Byars spent his formative years in Japan (1958–68) where he learnt to appreciate the ephemeral as a valued quality in art and embrace the ceremonial as a continuing mode in his life and work. He adapted the highly sensual, abstract, and symbolic practices found in Japanese Noh theatre and Shinto rituals to Western science, art, and philosophy. One of his most important works of that period is Untitled Object (Runcible) (1962–4), also known as The Performable Square, a 46 cm cube consisting of 1000 sheets of white flax paper that unfold into a 15×15 m white plane divided by 32 parallel strips connected at the top with paper hinges. It was first exhibited, folded, in 1964 at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, in the centre of the museum floor, placed on a sheet of glass, but not ‘performed’ (i.e. unfolded) until 14 years later, in ...

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