pittsburgh

James Lee Byars, A 1000-Foot Chinese Paper, 1965. Performance view, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, January 13, 1965.

James Lee Byars

Carnegie Museum of Art

James Lee Byars, A 1000-Foot Chinese Paper, 1965. Performance view, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, January 13, 1965.

A Lilliputian show in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s already miniature Forum Gallery, “Ordinary Madness” plucked James Lee Byars (who died in 1997 at the age of sixty-five) out of the general history of Fluxus and reframed his practice with some astonishing and wide-reaching results. On view were heretofore unexhibited letters, photographs, and films that documented Byars’s happening-like events and traced his involvement with the Carnegie between 1963 and 1966. There was also one choice “performable object”—a thousand feet of folded Chinese paper activated in a work that Byars had staged at the Carnegie on January 13, 1965 (A 1000-Foot Chinese Paper). While such ephemera evidences Byars’s conceptual development, it also reemphasizes the materiality of practices often erroneously thought of as furthering the dematerialization of art. In this show, the centrality of the performable

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