100,000 Minutes by James Lee Byars

Byars, 100,000, spine
Byars, interior

Byars, James Lee. 100,000 Minutes, or the Big Sample of Byars, or ½ an Autobiography, or the First Paper of Philosophy. Antwerp: Galerie Anny De Decker, 1969.

4to.; mimeograph on pink paper; wrappers. Very good. Lightly soiled in a few spots with two small abrasions on the top panel; but altogether a handsome copy of a very fragile book.

First edition; one of 250 copies.

Byars is an artist who defies categorization; there are elements of minimalism, Fluxus, and conceptualism in his work, but the influence of Zen gardens and the Japanese tea ceremony is also discernible (with, as Dave Hickey has pointed out, a dash of Vegas-y, late-Elvis, over-the-top Americana thrown in as well). However odd the mixture, Byars has an undeniable ability to invest certain signature materials (gold leaf, rose petals or, as in this book, smooth pink paper) with metaphorical resonance and in this way he is part of a small but distinct group who might be thought of as contemporary art’s shamanistic practitioners. Like his good friend Joseph Beuys, his contemporary Yayoi Kusama and more recently Matthew Barney and Terence Koh, Byars’ multidisciplinary practice encompassed everything from sculpture to performance to the creation of books. This artists’ book, which accompanied an exhibition of work at Wide White Space in Antwerp, is a touchstone work for him. It consists of a series of handwritten notes, questions, propositions, and declarations all reproduced in mimeograph and, like so many of Byars’ gold spheres, balls of bread, or wooden constructions, declared to be a self-portrait.