Chapter 1: Stone and Paper, 1958–1967, New York-Kyoto / Hoofdstuk 1: Steen en Papier / Chapitre 1: Pierre et papier
Stone and Paper
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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If you don’t wash your o...
James Lee Byars, If you don’t wash your own you stay dirty, 1960. Print, typewritten on japanese note paper, 25 x 17.5 cm.
The Black Stone
James Lee Byars, The Black Stone, 1958-1959. Object, laquered stone, 12.5 x 26 x 24 cm.
The Pink Silk Airplane
James Lee Byars, The Pink Silk Airplane, 1969. Sculpture, silk, wooden showcase, 560 x 250 cm, 175 x 150 x 50 cm.