American, 20th century.
Born 1929, Oneonta, New York; died 2013, Cortland, New York.
Using combinations of wood, sawdust, glue, paint and ink, Byam has produced three-dimensional objects that while recognizable, remain equivocal. Byam's sculptural work follows in a long tradition of woodcarving in rural America, however, his use of sawdust mixed with a glue binder lends many of the objects a soft focus, giving them the appearance of emerging or slipping from view. This is also reflected in the artist's choice of imagery that at times indicates a personal longing for travel and exploration beyond his daily life. Conversely, Byam's works on paper, utilizing a variety of materials including pencil, crayon, and marker, often include portraits and written commentary, and speak clearly and directly about contemporary culture and its fascination with media and celebrity.
Born in Oneonta, New York in 1929, Byam spent a large part of his life assisting his parents in the daily operations of the family-owned trailer court. In the late 1940s Byam went to work for the Delaware and Hudson Railway, then served two years with the U.S. military stationed in Japan during the Korean War. In 1952, he returned home to his parents and took several jobs, including one as a part-time gravedigger for a local cemetery.
2017, John Byam: Unearthed, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2016, World Made By Hand, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2015, John Byam: Sculptures and Drawings, The Good Luck Gallery, New York
2015, I Taught Myself, Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle
2014 collection abcd, la maison rouge, Paris
2013, John Byam, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2013, NADA Art Fair, Andrew Edlin Gallery, Miami
2013, Outsider Art Fair, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2013, Véhicules, Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
2012, The Artwork of John Byam: As Near As Can Be, Martin Mullen Gallery, SUNY Oneonta, New York
2012, John Byam & Matt Blackwell, Parker's Box Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
American Folk Art Museum, New York
Collection abcd, Paris
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Museum of Everything, London
Meier, Allison, "The Unearthed Wood Carvings of a Part-Time Gravedigger," Hyperallergic, January 26, 2017.
Smith, Roberta, "Feeling Right at Home on the Fringe," New York Times, January 31, 2013.
Cohen, David, "In From the Cold: The Outsider Art Fair," ArtCritical, February 2, 2013.
"Critic's Pick: John Byam," New York Magazine, February 25, 2013.
Molarsky, Mona, "Review: John Byam," ARTnews, April 2013.
Corbett, Rachel, "One of My Artists Is a Witch: New Outsider Art Fair Offers an Enchanting Mix," ArtInfo, February 1, 2013.