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James Lee Byars

Michael Werner | New York

James Lee Byars’ extensive oeuvre has tended to revolve around related sets of dualities: materiality and immateriality, the eternal and the instantaneous, heaviness and lightness. In his delicate and atmospheric performance pieces, he has often avoided any hint of weight (in his paradigmatic conceptualization of a performance piece, The Perfect Theatre, an audience at an Italian villa would see, on a distant wall, a man in a pink suit appear and seemingly disappear in an instant). More recently, by contrast, he has made works in heavy materials—marble, limestone, brass—that can depress the spirit by their literal gravity even as they exhilarate with their form. In Five Points Make a Man, the Moons and Constellations (all works 1995), Byars combined in a single installation the two elements of sculptural weight and heady levitation through his special use of paper, a material he has worked

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