05.10.2018–20.01.2019 James Lee Byars – The Perfect Kiss M HKA
James Lee Byars – The Perfect Kiss

The nomadic performance and installation artist James Lee Byars (Detroit 1932 - Cairo 1997) challenged the post-war art world with a poetic attitude animated by three separate motifs: the question, perfection and death. His search for utter purity of intention and expression was bolstered by a desire to form a direct, and thus impersonal, understanding of the world, in this way transcending the Western romantic notions of self-expression and genius. His oeuvre is an idiosyncratic mix of the meditative, the theatrical, the participatory and the aesthetically 'perfect'.

The Perfect Kiss, presenting more than one hundred works, is the first retrospective exhibition by James Lee Byars in Belgium and simultaneously also a tribute to Byars as a European artist, a Belgian artist, even an Antwerp artist. Byars traveled for ten years between New York and Kyoto before arriving in Europe in 1969, invited by Anny De Decker and Bernd Lohaus for an exhibition at the Wide White Space Gallery in Antwerp (April 18 - May 7 1969). Byars quickly became part of a group of artists and art lovers around this groundbreaking gallery - Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Jef Cornelis, Nicole and Herman Daled, Isi Fiszman, and many others - and became a prominent figure in the European art scene with participations in five documenta's from 1972 until his death.

The Perfect Kiss presents works in different genres and media (painting, sculpture, installation, video, performance and text), with a focus on Byars' presence in Belgium from 1969 to 1994, with works such as Two in a Hat, Mask and Dress, 75 in a Hat, A Pink Silk Airplane for 100 and The World Question Center (all from 1969), The Black Book (1971) and The Perfect Love Letter (1974). The beating heart of the exhibition is a selection of never-before-seen letters from Byars to his friends in Belgium.

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