Exhibition organized by Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
James Lee Byars (Detroit, Michigan, 1932 – Cairo, 1997), one of the most recognized American artists from the 1960s to today, influenced an entire generation in the field of conceptual and performance art. With a background spanning art, psychology and philosophy, Byars has always been fascinated by Japanese culture, which has influenced his artistic practice throughout his life. In his art, Byars associates motifs and symbols of Eastern customs and civilization with his profound knowledge of Western art and philosophy, offering a unique and personal vision of reality and its physical and spiritual components. Through the use of different media, such as installation, sculpture, performance, drawing and words, in fact, the artist has given life to a mystical-aesthetic reflection on the concepts of perfection and cyclicality, on the human figure - on its representation and dematerialization – often through the direct involvement of the public in temporary actions or large-scale interventions. Central to his work is the relationship with the public, who is called to deal with the artist himself and to answer questions that he poses directly and indirectly with his works.
More than thirty years after his last institutional exhibition in Italy, Pirelli HangarBicocca dedicates a retrospective to James Lee Byars, collecting large-scale works, created from 1974 to 1997 and coming from international museum collections, some rarely exhibited and presented in Italy for the first time, in which precious and refined materials are harmoniously combined, such as marble, velvet, silk, gold leaf and crystal, with minimal and archetypal geometries, such as spheres, prisms and pillars, and with baroque objects in a game of symbolic and aesthetic references between form and content. Starting from the multiple allegorical and formal meanings of the material, the exhibition focuses on the themes that have crossed the artist's practice such as the search for perfection, doubt as an approach to existence and the finitude of the human being, inviting visitors to reflect on the alchemical potential of art in shaping reality.