James Lee Byars - Briefe an Joseph Beuys
21. October - 26. November 2000

Hey Joe, wir sollten die documenta 6 gemeinsam machen!
(Hey Joe, we should do the documenta 6 together!)
James Lee Byars - Letters to Beuys
Deutsche Fassung

Letters of Art - folded, crumpled and crimped, await the visitor at an exhibition at the Kunsthalle Museum Fridericianum Kassel: A sensual universe, to be held in hands.

Kassel * It was a veritable obsession:  without tiring, the American performance artist James Lee Byars (1932-1997) wrote letters. More than 100 of them were addressed to Joseph Beuys (1921 ö1986). None of them was ever answered.
The exhibition "JameJames Lee Byars - Letters to Joseph Beuys" is the very first attempt at presenting the entire collection of these letters, archived at the Museum Schloss Moyland, and allows a glimpse on this very curious one-sided effort. At the same time it exemplifies the very special relationship between two artists, using a wide variety of documents, photographic work and films on loan by several owners, - a relationship deepened by decades of chance meetings and cooperation. One important factor in this was the Kassel documenta, for which Byars in his letters developed a multitude of ideas for joint performances and activities.

For James Lee Byars, who was constantly traveling through America, Europe and Japan, letters represented the only persistent connection to friends, colleagues and galerists. And so his missives became works of art: Unusual materials like kitchen paper towels, hand-made paper from Japan and China, translucent silk and  gold paper,  and even tropical foliage were transformed into letters of often very generous dimensions, even if the content was sometimes  nothing but a mysterious cipher or an exclamation. These playful variations on colours and shapes are expressive of an art, in which by crossing the lines the two-dimensional becomes three-dimensional, or the enduring coincides with the transient,- such as when coloured dust sifts from a letter when it is opened.

These `Letters of Art´ mirror the search for new forms of expression within the art of the 20th century. James Lee Byars and Joseph Beuys took different roads to a visionary expansion of the understanding of art, into mental spaces, within which cultural, historical and symbolic allusions were directly related to LIFE.

The exhibition, curated by Dr. Viola Michely, was realised as a joint project by the museums Schloss Moyland, Bedburg-Hau, and van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerpen, as well as the Kunsthalle Museum Fridericianum Kassel.