The Len Lye Centre’s new exhibition looks at the pivotal years that saw Len Lye shift his focus from experimental film to ‘tangible motion sculpture’.
Showcasing film, sculpture and materials from the Len Lye Foundation Archive, Experimental Moves tracks this shift, marking Lye’s development as a leading figure of kinetic art in the United States.
Curator Sarah Wall says this progression was far from straightforward but full of interplay as Lye moved between film and sculpture.
“Experimental Moves invites us to view Lye’s films and kinetic sculpture in the context of their production and reception, underscoring the 1950s and 1960s as an exciting time for Lye in his pursuit of an art of motion,” says Wall.
Experimental Moves features several of Lye’s celebrated scratch films, including Free Radicals (1958), as well as his lesser-known sample animated advertisements of the 1950s. In London Lye had produced commercials for the GPO Film Unit, pioneering the ‘direct’ filmmaking techniques of painting and stencilling colour directly onto film. In the hope of finding sponsors for his filmmaking endeavours in the United States, Lye experimented with new direct animation methods, including solarisation and scratching, to create sample advertisements to pitch to producers, such as Life’s Musical Minute (1953) and Prime Time (1958).
Towards the end of the 1950s, discouraged by a lack of support for his films, Lye turned his focus to kinetic sculpture. The following decade saw Lye’s tangible motion sculptures appear in a run of important exhibitions of kinetic art, including major surveys Directions in Kinetic Sculpture at the University Art Museum, University of California (at Berkeley) and Kinetic and Optical Art Today at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. Experimental Moves presents a dazzling display of some of Lye’s most iconic tangible motion sculptures, including Roundhead (1961) and Rotating Harmonic (1959), and a new reconstruction of Lye’s mesmerising Witch Dance (c.1965).
A number of drawings, photographs, notes and articles are being exhibited for the first time and provide an insight into this exciting time of the artist’s career. Lye’s strike from film was not absolute – throughout the 1960s Lye continued his experiments of scratching into celluloid, forming the basis of his acclaimed films Particles in Space and Tal Farlow (1980).
Also opening at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is the exhibition All Lines Converge (17 Dec 2016 – 20 Mar 2017), an exhibition of work by Aotearoa New Zealand artists from the 1970s to today, with key works from the Govett-Brewster Collection.
Lye’s expertly engineered and arguably most compelling sculpture, Flip and Two Twisters (Trilogy), has scheduled daily performances in the Large Works gallery throughout the summer season.
Image: Len Lye 1979. Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Opening Weekend Programme
Doodlin’ – Impressions of Len Lye
Sat 17 Dec I 3.30 pm
Len Lye’s biographer Roger Horrocks will introduce Doodlin’ – Impressions of Len Lye, a film that explores the life and career of the New Zealand artist. Directed by Keith Griffiths, Doodlin’ includes interviews with Lye’s wife Ann, filmmaker Stan Brakhage, composer Jack Ellitt, engineer John Matthews and Horrocks.
Floor talk with Roger Horrocks
Sun 18 Dec I 1.30 pm
Join Len Lye’s biographer Roger Horrocks for a floor talk in the exhibition Len Lye: Experimental Moves. The talk will explore some of Lye’s unique ideas about filmmaking and kinetic sculpture. Followed by a book signing of Art that Moves: The Work of Len Lye.
For high-res images or further enquiries please contact:
M: +275 839 2660
About Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is New Zealand’s contemporary art museum in the coastal city of New Plymouth, Taranaki on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since opening in 1970, the Gallery has dedicated itself to innovative programming, focused collection development and audience engagement. It has earned a strong reputation nationally and internationally for its global vision and special commitment to contemporary art of the Pacific Rim. The Govett-Brewster is also home to the collection and archive of the seminal modernist filmmaker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye (1901–1980).
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery was founded with a gift to the city of New Plymouth, from one of its greatest ‘Friends’ Monica Brewster (née Govett). A globetrotter before the age of air travel, Monica Brewster envisaged an art museum for her hometown that would be an international beacon for the art and ideas of the current day – the sort she had become familiar with on her global travels.
The Govett-Brewster continues in the legacy of Monica Brewster by taking on and presenting the most provocative, audacious and confident works of art in the global arts landscape.
The greatly expanded museum re-launched on 25 July 2015 with the addition of the Len Lye Centre. With its curved exterior walls of mirror-like stainless steel, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre is the country’s first example of destination architecture linked to contemporary art.
This latest addition to the Govett-Brewster – the Len Lye Centre – is New Zealand’s first institution dedicated to a single artist, the pioneering filmmaker and kinetic sculptor, Len Lye.
In 1964 Len Lye said “Great architecture goes fifty-fifty with great art”.
The Len Lye Centre building, adjoining the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, is an example of innovative thinking in both engineering and architecture. The architects are Patterson Associates, one of New Zealand’s most internationally recognised architectural firms.
The new Len Lye Centre features Lye’s work in kinetic sculpture, film, painting, drawing, photography, batik and writing, as well as related work by contemporary and historical artists.
It also houses a state-of-the-art 62-seat cinema – a welcoming environment for audiences to experience Len Lye’s films, local and international cinema, arthouse and experimental films, and regular film festival programming.
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery building in New Plymouth closed in April 2013 for earthquake strengthening, compliance, upgrades and construction of the Len Lye Centre.
About Len Lye
A visionary New Zealander, an inspirational artist, a pioneer of film; Len Lye is one of the most important and influential artists to emerge from New Zealand.
Len Lye was an experimental filmmaker, poet, painter, kinetic sculptor and creative visionary ahead of his time. Most of his works were so revolutionary that technology literally had to catch up to him – meaning much of Lye’s work was not realised in his own lifetime.
Lye’s iconic 45-metre kinetic sculpture Wind Wand sways gently on New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway. The Wind Wand that glows red at night, is the first large outdoor sculpture to be built posthumously from his plans and drawings.
In 1977 Lye returned to his homeland to oversee the first New Zealand exhibition of his work at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. He called it the “swingiest art gallery of the antipodes”.
Shortly before his death in 1980, Lye and his supporters established the Len Lye Foundation, to which he gifted his entire collection. His collection was gifted on the condition that a suitable and permanent home be created in which his works could be fully realised.
Len Lye: Experimental Moves
10 Dec 2016 – 26 March 2017
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre