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Michael Byron

Michael Byron is a visual artist whose work is included in the museum collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Tamayo Museum (Mexico City), and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), among others.

Byron was born in Rhode Island and earned his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and his MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in 1981. His inclusion in MoMA’s An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture in 1984 marked the beginning of his international career. After participating in the 1989 Whitney Biennial, he moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he lived and worked for five years. While in Amsterdam, he participated in group and solo exhibitions there and in Germany, France, and Spain.

Byron’s work is characterized by a continuing interest in the nature of objects, specifically the theatrical nature of objects of contemplation, and a commitment to the practice of painting and collage with a strong parallel involvement with installation art.

In March 1996, Byron exhibited a group of paintings entitled Short Stories in the Currents solo exhibition program at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in conjunction with his appointment as the first Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Fellow in Painting at Washington University (1994-1996).

The Amitin Notebook Project, first exhibited at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis from November 2001 through February 2002, traveled to the Blaffer Gallery at the Museum of the University of Texas, Houston, from June through September 2002. In 2009 the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art at Saint Louis University presented a solo exhibition of the series Cosmic Tears.

Four publications focusing on Byron’s work have been published, and since his return to the United States in 1994, his work has been featured in 22 solo exhibitions, five two-person shows, and 52 group exhibitions in the United States and Europe, eight of which were museum exhibitions.

Byron is a 1989 NEA grant recipient, and received a Werkbeurs (work grant) while living in Amsterdam in 1992. In 1995 he was awarded a Bequia Summer Residency sponsored by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. He was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Award in 2003 and for a United States Artists Grant in 2011. He received a Sam Fox School Creative Activity Research Grant in 2009.

Byron joined the full-time faculty in painting at Washington University in 1996 and was promoted to the rank of full professor in 2002. He served as the associate dean of faculty from 2004-2007. In 2014 he was installed as the Kenneth E. Hudson Professor of Art.

In May 2015 Byron presented a solo exhibition at The Suburban in Oak Park, Illinois, an artist exhibition space founded by Brad Killam and Michelle Grabner, one of the co-curators of the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

Personal website

Work by Michael Byron

A grayscale collage of clowns behind a person (hand shown only) turning a wheel; a circus performer, eating fire in front of a crowd of onlookers; a person holding something (perhaps a Q-tip) in their right hand against their left arm; a soccer ball against a net; and an interior room. The collage is mounted on the wall and in front of the wall is a concentric ring of chains, keys, and a red ball.

The Wheel of Fortune, 2018

66 x 48", 44" dia. digital collage on aluminum ball chains keys. mixed mediums.
A collage: an illustration of some scene from antiquity on a comic strip (black linework on a white background), both of which are above a yellow composition with red geometric line patterns; a manipulated white texture; photographs of mechanical bits/coins; an out of focus image of some text; a sculpture against a dark background, cropped to show its legs and the long shadow that follows it; and a landscape of a cliffside by the sea. The background of these latter four images is some pink paper with small black text, rotated to be upside down.

Lamp & Coins, 2020

48 x 36". Collage image on aluminum.
A collage: the gloved hand of a Blackjack (?) dealer holding a jack and a player's hand; rain-dotted cityscape at night; a construction site; a small image of a hand holding a Champagne glass; the word "MAYHEM" in a bubbly, pink font. The latter three are laid out on a background that contains bold bright illustrations and blocky text.

Blackjack & Mayhem Coins, 2020

48 x 36". Collage image on aluminum.
A collage: a violet rectangular shape above an image of a person ascending carpeted steps and a guard in uniform in the center; an illustration from The New Yorker of three people at the entrance of the zoological gardens, out of which the animals exit/escape; a passage obscured with light gray/white paint/ink.

the New Yorker in Paris, 2019

10.5 x 7.75" mixed media collage on paper
On a textured, gray ground, a collage: massive sculptures — busts — of men in suits, all looking to the right; a scientific/microscopic image of Petri dishes; a person with open hands, holding a fragment of a sculpture; an illustration of Abraham Lincoln pulling a rabbit out of his topcoat; a photograph of a typewriter under slanted glass. The first three are positioned together to the top and the latter two tiled side by side, so that the hands cradling the sculpture fragment appear to protrude from the mass of large-scale busts of the men.

the New Yorker in St. Louis, 2020

10.5 x 7.75". mixed media collage on paper.