John Byam

The Good Luck Gallery is proud to present:
John Byam
May 23 – July 11, 2015
Reception: Saturday May 23, 2015 7 – 10PM

John Byam, selected sculptures, n.d. wood, glue and sawdust

Over the course of a long life, John Byam chiseled out hundreds of tiny, toy-like wood carvings, begrimed with sawdust and compressed with a mischievous energy; such objects as soldiers, coffins and gurneys – they exude a morbidly playful and palpably disquieting quality.

Although primarily known for his carvings, Byam also produced numerous drawings in pen and pencil. Deftly and swiftly executed, Byam drew from mass-media sources, depicting political figures that include Ethel Kennedy, Jackie Onassis and Adolf Hitler, and covering the paper with quips and expository scribble in a spirited and comical display of horror vacui, much of it self-deprecatory in nature. A rendering of temperance activist Frances Willard, for example, includes the text “1st time drawn and as near as can be,” and a phrase that frequently appears on his drawings is “A Hobby to Draw Pictures,” which may tell us something about his attitude to his work.

Information regarding Byam’s life is scarce. He was born in upstate New York in 1929 and died there 84 years later. He served in the Korean War, worked as a gravedigger and spent his last years at an assisted living facility, where he continued to produce art. Towards the end of his life, he achieved a degree of attention: most notably in 2013 when he was the subject of a solo exhibition at Andrew Edlin Gallery – a New York gallery that specializes in outsider art – that now represents Byam’s estate and under whose auspices The Good Luck Gallery is proud to present Byam’s first show in California. His work is also featured in such notable collections as the Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne and the Museum of Everything in London.