James Lee Byars Makes Nothing from Something

THE DAILY PIC: At Michael Werner, basalt balls forge a potent connection.



This installation is called “Is Is”. It was made in 1988 by the late James Lee Byars, and is now in a small selection of his work on view at Michael Werner gallery on the Upper East Side in New York. The two massive spheres are carved from solid basalt, and ought to seem weighty, in every sense of the word. Instead, I found the pair sexy and lithe. The way they just barely touch conjures up the febrile moment when two new lovers are first connecting. There’s palpable energy in the tiny point of contact between the two globes. I’d go so far as to say that the real sculpture consists of only that point. The rest of the basalt balls, for all their vast substance, are just there to make that single, one-dimensional moment exist.

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