Art | June 30, 2024 |

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Image courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, Berlin

Invisible Questions that fill the air: James Lee Byars and Seung-Taek Lee
Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti
Palazzo Loredan, Campo Santo Stefano, Venice
17 April – 25 August 2024

Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Venice, with the support of Michael Werner Gallery is pleased to present Invisible Questions That Fill the Air, an exhibition of works by American artist James Lee Byars (b. 1932, d. 1997) and Korean artist Seung-taek Lee (b. 1932), curated by esteemed curator and art historian Allegra Pesenti.

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Image courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, Berlin

“The otherworldly fabric of Venice and more specifically the historical backdrop of the Palazzo Loredan become a unique stage for both artists,” Pesenti notes of the exhibition. “The combination of gold, stone, wood, and rope in their respective works reflects the traditional materials of Venice’s built environment. And poetry and philosophy, which are so central to the art of both Byars and Lee, find common ground in the ornate libraries of Palazzo Loredan in Campo Santo Stefano.”

Both artists were born in 1932 on opposite sides of the world. Byars in Detroit, an industrial city struggling during the Great Depression, and Lee in a small town in a Northern province of a then unified Korea under Japanese rule. They never met, but their works present surprising and unexpected parallels. Foremost, both artists elude easy categorization.

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Image courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, Berlin

While they are tangentially associated with Surrealism, Dada, Minimalism, Mono-ha, and Arte Povera, their work streams through different forms and concepts, and they resist being bound to a specific movement. Both artists share a deep curiosity for history and the arts of the past, alongside a reflective and critical approach to the present.

Despite the tactility of their works, there is a common interest in the immaterial. Lee describes the origins of his “non-sculpture” as “departing from a sculptural form, these works signalled a state of existence, visualizing the invisible air.” Likewise for Byars, the critic Dave Hickey notes that “the implication of his work is that seeing is never quite enough, that we should listen for instance to the invisible questions that presumably fill the air.”

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Image courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, Berlin

Invisible Questions That Fill the Air includes over six decades of work and bolsters both Byars’ and Lee’s reputations as major contributors to the 20th and 21st-century avant-garde. According to Pesenti, “There is an indomitable energy that has kept the work of these two artists alive against the vagaries of contemporary art trends and expectations. Despite the vast differences that place them apart, there is a closeness of thought: a correspondent affinity for the spiritual, for ritual, and for a purity of form. Through their own alchemical transformations, they make the invisible visible.”


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Image courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, Berlin

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