Pace Gallery is pleased to present a selection of drawings created by the artist and musician David Byrne over the last 20 years. On view at 540 West 25th Street in New York from January 13 to February 19, 2022, the exhibition will include works from the artist's dingbats series of drawings made during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of his tree drawings from the early 2000s, and a selection of his drawings of chairs from 2004–07. In addition, Phaidon will release a book of the artist's dingbats drawings in spring 2022. The drawings in Pace's presentation shed light on Byrne's distinct formal style and expansive visual arts practice.
Throughout his five-decade-long career, Byrne has nurtured a fine arts practice spanning drawing, photography, installation, performance, and design. In 2008, he was commissioned by the nonprofit Creative Time to transform the interior of the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan—the exhibited work, titled Playing the Building (2005), comprises an immersive sound sculpture. The artist has also presented public installations at Pace Gallery in New York in 2011 and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York in 2002.
This presentation follows Byrne's 2020 exhibition with Pace—an online showing of 50 dingbats drawings produced during quarantine—and it marks the artist's eighth collaboration with the gallery since 2003. Works in his dingbats series grapple with the attendant boredom, anxiety, and loneliness of quarantine as well as the inequities and injustices highlighted by the pandemic. The dingbats are Byrne's response to these conditions—an imaginative way of expressing hope, desire for connection, and the power of community.
Byrne often imbues his drawings with surreal, playful qualities. He once wrote of his lively, multifarious depictions of chairs, 'Maybe they are portraits, maybe self-portraits, maybe portraits of my interior state. Maybe they are also possible practical furniture design. Maybe all of the above at once.' He has described his tree drawings, in which the artist labels the expansive branches and roots of trees with varied signifiers, as 'faux science, automatic writing, self-analysis, satire and maybe even a serious attempt at finding connections where none were thought to exist. And an excuse to draw plant-like forms and diagrams.'
The artist's work can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven. Byrne's recently reopened and acclaimed Broadway musical production David Byrne's American Utopia will continue its run throughout Pace's presentation.
David Byrne (b. 1952, Dumbarton, Scotland) was raised in Baltimore where he briefly attended the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 1971 after transferring from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
Byrne studied photography, performance, and video production at MICA. In 1975 Byrne co-founded the group Talking Heads, who in the 80s introduced an innovative visual approach to their performances.
Byrne has been involved with photography, drawing, installations, performance and design since college and has been publishing and exhibiting his work since the 1990s. Like his music, Byrne's visual work has the capacity to elevate and transform ordinary elements into iconic ones and challenges our fundamental notions of what can be classified as art.
Recent works include the Broadway debut of David Byrne's American Utopia (2019) as well as the forthcoming Spike Lee directed film version (2020), the launch of his Reasons to be Cheerful online magazine (2019), and the solo album American Utopia (2018). Byrne co-founded the band Talking Heads (1976), for which he was the guitarist and lead singer, and established the record labels Luaka Bop (1988) and Todo Mundo (2008). Other artistic achievements include the theatrical piece Joan of Arc: Into the Fire (2017); a series of interactive environments questioning human perception and bias, The Institute Presents: NEUROSOCIETY (2016); the theatrical production Here Lies Love (2013); the public installation Tight Spot (2011) at Pace Gallery; the audio installation Playing the Building (2005); the public installation Everything is Connected (2002) at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York. Byrne wrote, directed, and starred in True Stories, a musical collage of discordant Americana released in 1986. For his contribution to The Last Emperor's soundtrack Byrne received an Academy Award for Best Original Score and in 2004, Byrne won the Wired Award for Art for his project Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information (EEEI) that used the presentation software PowerPoint as an art medium.
Byrne's work belongs to numerous collections, including the Denver Art Museum and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, N.C.
His book projects include True Stories (1986); Strange Ritual (1995); Your Action World (1998, 1999); The New Sins/Los Nuevos Pecados (2001); David Byrne Asks You: What Is It? (2002); Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information (2003); Arboretum (2006) and How Music Works (2012).
Byrne lives and works in New York City.
Press release courtesy Pace Gallery.