Los Angeles

James Byars

Eugenia Butler Gallery

“Byars at Butler,” a two part performance/environment, was organized by James Byars into two segments, each lasting five days. The first part, “Walling up Jenie,” called for the removal of the gallery name from the building and construction of a wall between the gallery space and Eugenia Butler’s office. The gallery was painted white with the exception of the new wall which Byars ordered painted bright red. Eugenia Butler was not permitted in this space, and had to enter her office by the back door. This first portion of the rite of James Lee Byars might be regarded as a purification to rid the gallery of any commercial taint, and to depress the gallery identification with its ebullient director. After five days the gallery was ready and further modifications were ordered. The skylight was totally covered save for a tiny oculus which let a bit of light into the otherwise dark room, which was now totally painted dark red. The door to the street was sealed by a wall into which a round hole was cut about two feet above the floor, through which one had to crawl to enter the gallery. The ambience was now set for the performance—“The Ghost of James Lee Byars Calling.” The performance took place at irregular intervals, when friends and acquaintances of both Byars and Butler entered the darkened space and read quotes by and about Byars, which he had solicited from his friends. (He had asked acquaintances from everywhere to write him at the gallery.) The gallery thus became the focus of an impalpable web of thought and ideas, the written residue of which were read at length there. The “idea” of Byars is almost always more interesting than the idea executed, due perhaps to my fantasies which can elaborate on the idea but not on the form. Thus the idea of 615 North La Cienega Boulevard becoming for a moment the epicenter of the thought of and about James Lee Byars is more interesting than the actuality of stuffing oneself through a small opening and listening, in that almost black room, to the cult of James Byars (although where else might I have met the idea?).

Thomas H. Garver