James Lee Byars & Cildo Meireles At the White Cube Bermoneys (South Gallery)
The title of the ideal exhibition I would curate would be called Elements of Gold, with the two artist James Lee Byars and Cildo Meireles who have influenced my studio practice. James Lee Byars’, who died in 1997, work is installations and sculptures mostly made out of fabric. Cildo Meireles is also an installation artist and sculptor but his work is more political and is usually anti the Brazil government. Meireles was the first Brazilian artist to have a retrospective of his work at the Tate in 2008. The combination of both these artists will create an interesting combination between sculpture and installation. The ideal exhibition space would be the South Gallery at the White Cube. Because James Lee Byars’ estate will only work with galleries which sell work and the White Cube is a selling gallery and the ownercurator is renowned for selling artist’s work around the world so it fits the criteria of the show.
The exhibition will be held at the White Cube, Bermondsey (fig.1) which is still a reasonably new gallery space in London. It opened in 2011 after a total revamp of its 1970s design leading to 4 exhibition spaces totalling 58,000 sft. The South Gallery is the principle gallery in the space which holds the main exhibitions for the White Cube. The expensive of the show will be partially funded by the arts council and also the percentage of sales for each piece. The ideal time will be a period between November and February as the contrast between the darkness outside and the bright colours of the exhibition.
James Lee Byars’ use of material was not only for its aesthetic qualities but also symbolic. His use of gold, which is an ancient symbol of immortality, is used in two of the three pieces. Gold Leaf is used in the piece The Death of James Lee Byars (1994) (fig. 2). This installation piece will fill an entire room, which will be constructed in the South Gallery, and will be entirely covered in gold leaf. Before entering the room there will be the sculpture The Rose Table of Perfect (1989) (Fig. 3) which comprises a 3-D circle of 3,333 red roses. The critical theory behind this piece is Gertrude Stein’s poetic line from her poem ‘rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’ (1913), in which the use of repetition serves to literally deaden meaning. Byars was intent upon making art that questioned its own existence. Achieving moments of perfection was a key concept in Byars’ work. His continual process of questioning provided the biggest part of his practice and also questioning the very essence of the art object. This is seen in his piece Elephant (1997) (Fig. 4) which is his last piece being shown in the exhibition. A gold lame will cover the gallery ceiling, walls and floor completely covering every part of the South Gallery. In the centre of the room, there is a rope ball placed on a gold plinth. The ball has no evident beginning or ending and is representative of the way Byars linked art and everyday life. The work was completed only days before Byars’ death.
Cildo Meireles has only one piece of work in the show but will take over the middle of the South Gallery with the piece How to Build Cathedrals (1987) (Fig. 5). It consist of 600,000 coins carpeting the floor which are connected to a canopy of 2000 bones hanging from the ceiling by a white column of 800 communion wafers. The objects allude to religion, commerce and human loss.
This exhibition will sit in the London contemporary art scene because at the moment installation pieces are popular as scene at the Spurth Magers London gallery recent show Latent Forms by Thomas Demand. The pieces are being put together as all the works question religion and also our perception of wealth. Being old work that I will show at the exhibition Elements of Gold the framing will be brought into a more modern white cube context with lots of empty walls and only a few pieces of work in the room. The question which the work will try and ask is that showing old contemporary art, does it still make as big an impact as it did when first shown?
South Gallery Plan
List of Illustrations
Fig.1 White Cube Bermonsey
Fig. 2 The Death of James Lee Byars (1994)
Fig 3. The Rose Table of Perfect (1989) James Lee Byers
Fig. 4 Elephant (1997) James Lee Byers
Fig 5. How To Build Cathedrals Cildo Meireles (1987)
Fig 6. Plan of White Cube
List of Illustrations