Using various combinations of wood, sawdust, glue, paint and ink, Byam created sculptures that follow a long tradition of woodcarving in rural America and that hearken a bygone era - the advent of the space program or TV series like “Lost in Space." 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. Many of his works imply a longing for travel and exploration way beyond the geographical confines of his daily life, which was largely spent assisting his parents with the daily operations of the family-owned trailer court in upstate New York. Other themes include the military - tanks, planes, artillery pieces - which reference his two-year stint with the U.S. Army in Japan during the Korean War, various manifestations of stairways (which appear to lead nowhere), and simple furniture: chairs, desks, tables and benches.
John Byam was born in Oneonta, New York in 1929. In the late 1940s, he went to work for the Delaware and Hudson Railway. In 1952 he returned home from the military and took several jobs, including one as a part-time gravedigger for a local cemetery. His work is included in the permanent collections of the American Folk Art Museum (New York), the Musée d’Art Brut (Lausanne), the Museum of Everything (London), and the Collection ABCD (Paris). This is the gallery’s second solo exhibition of his work which has also been exhibited at the Collection de L’Art Brut (Lausanne), La maison rouge (Paris), Postmasters Gallery (New York), and with the gallery at the Armory Show, NADA Miami Beach and the Outsider Art Fair. Byam was too sick to attend his first New York gallery show in January of 2013 and died shortly thereafter. He didn’t live quite long enough to see his work in museum collections or read the reviews of his art in the press.