Exhibition: James Lee Byars: Back in Detroit

James Byars ExhibitionThe James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History and Elaine L. Jacob Gallery are pleased to present James Lee Byars: Back.

This exhibition focuses on the formative years of the Detroit-born artist James Lee Byars. After attending Wayne State University in the 1950s, Byars went on to gain worldwide acclaim, and his work has only grown more relevant over time. Byars’ unique approach and nomadic life allowed him to flourish: he crossed boundaries between disciplines and cultures, striving for – and ultimately achieving – a truly global art form.

Byars is known for his extraordinary letters to curators, colleagues, and friends worldwide. The earliest letters to his WSU teacher Olga Constantine, in delicate handwriting on precious handmade Japanese paper, however, have never before been exhibited. The exhibition also includes seven early works in stone, wood, and on paper, which are proof of his quest for a universal visual language, in exchange with Japanese culture as well as contemporary movements like minimal art, pop art, conceptual art, and Fluxus. A selection of documented performances is offered, including the recently retrieved and digitized The Holy Ghost. Visitors can enjoy a half-hour documentary containing an interview with the then thirty-seven-year-old artist and highlighting one of his plural-garment performances. Works from his mature period demonstrate the power of Byars’ art, rooted in his Detroit experiences.

James Byars ExhibitionJames Lee Byars: Back in Detroit is curated by Els Hoek, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and organized in collaboration with the Estate of James Lee Byars / Michael Werner Gallery, Märkisch-Wilmersdorf, London, and New York.

This exhibition has been made possible through cooperation with the following partners: De Appel arts centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; Argos, centre for art and media, Brussels, Belgium; Flor & Lieve Bex-Dedeyne and Christiaan Goyvaerts, Antwerp, Belgium; Angelica Cardazzo, Venice, Italy; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan; Wendy Dunaway, Santa Fé, New Mexico; Urs Egger, Berlin, Germany; Dolores Hart, Shelby Charter Township, Michigan; Sandra Lang and Robert Landsman, New York; Michael Werner Gallery, Märkisch-Wilmersdorf, London, and New York; University of Udine, Italy.

  • James Lee Byars: Back in Detroit exhibition is open April 4 through July 5
    Gallery Hours: Tuesdays - Thursdays, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Fridays 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
  • Summer Hours: Tuesdays - through Fridays, noon-5 p.m.
  • Contact: tpyrzewski@wayne.edu