Throughout his life, James Lee Byars (Detroit, 1932–Cairo, 1997) constructed a myth around his persona, styling himself into a continuous performance that helped make him one of the most provocative and mythical figures in the art of the latter half of the twentieth century. Today, Byars’s life and work remain under-examined and difficult to parse. This volume has been conceived as a sourcebook of primary documents that present a partial inventory of casual photographs and performance documentation, ingenious and anecdotal resumés that bring together Byars’s art and life, vintage press releases, exhibition invitations, personal letters, postcards, and official correspondence, that together substantiate some of his thoughts about the event of his art, while also often serving to enact it. These images are paired with a series of conversations that the art historian David Sewell recorded with the artist in Los Angeles in 1977, the interviews that have been published here for the first time, offer new insight into many of the artist’s key projects and ideas.
Publisher: Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico; MoMAPS1, New York; Walther König, Cologne, 2014