On The White Figure


The White Figure is by James Lee Byars. The sculptor obviously put a lot of efforts on the material, which is a white marble he discovered on the island of Thassos, Greece when he traveled to Egypt and Greece in search of flawless stones (175). The material is flawless, the color is white, and the surface looks smooth. All these elements together shows the sculptor’s pursuit of the perfect and simplicity. Sitting in a big room with no furniture and white walls as clean as the marble, it leads to a moment of silence. The work is 170 centimeter long, not giant but the viewers can definitely feel the mass. It is located in the center of the room, drawing all attention to its center of gravity. Both the environment and the work is so symmetric, which creates a very even and balanced atmosphere. It is visually pleasing and invites the viewers to think. Outside the window, there are buildings. It is a chaotic city and a chaotic world, this work, in this room, brings to the viewers the peace.

At the same time, the marble looks cold, the place looks cold, the color looks cold. The coldness and the setting reminds the viewers of death. The shape of the work is almost like a coffin, as if there is a funeral, a ceremony. This one single piece of work can also be loneliness, sadness. It is probably Byars’s loneliness for his pursuit of perfection.

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