American, b. 1941
On Corner – On Edge – On Center Shatter (Within the Series of Layered Pattern Acts), 1968–1971
20 sheets of glass
approx. 72 x 84 in. (182.9 x 214.4 cm)
Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery Fund, 2005.23
Ordinary Madness mines Carnegie Museum of Art’s rich holdings of contemporary art to suggest an unsettling observation: that the ordinary is in fact laced with the contradictory, uncanny, and surreal. On view is a wide array of works that engage the everyday from various skewed (or perhaps clear-eyed) vantage points, illuminating the bewildering experiences we subconsciously accept as part of our daily lives. At the heart of the exhibition are the strengths, quirks, and unique history recorded in the museum’s superlative collection. The exhibition presents a series of comparisons across media and time period, revealing how artists engage conditions of dissonance and fracture—so integral to art-making and yet threatening to a comfortable understanding of the world.
Ordinary Madness: James Lee Byars at Carnegie Museum of Art, on view in the Forum Gallery through February 20, presents a never-before-exhibited collection of artworks and letters tracing the pioneering performance artist’s relationship with the museum. Archival photographs and documents explore Byars’s early “happenings,” held in 1964 and 1965 in the museum’s Hall of Sculpture.