Chapter 1: Stone and Paper, 1958–1967, New York-Kyoto / Hoofdstuk 1: Steen en Papier / Chapitre 1: Pierre et papier

2018 james lee byars photo m hka 64

Ensemble

Stone and Paper
1958–1967
New York / Kyoto


Byars’s earliest works were mostly large, minimal ink drawings and paintings on paper, ritually unfolded during performances. In Kyoto, where he studied art, philosophy and Japanese, he was attracted to traditional Noh plays and Shinto rituals where paper and unhewn stone play important roles. Like the composer John Cage, Byars was also inspired by the Ryoanji rock garden in Kyoto.

The stones resonate in his enthusiasm for the thinkers Einstein, Stein and Wittgenstein. Gertrude Stein’s writings were a particularly strong influence on his word play. Byars supported himself by teaching English at Kyoto University and would read sentences from Stein, written on a long strip of paper. When his students liked a sentence he would tear it off and hand it to them. Byars’s first group action was 100 students standing in a circle, reciting 100 lines by Stein.

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