Lye’s first animated film Tusalava, a mythological narrative of the primordial beginnings of organic life, is a touchstone of the exhibition.
Curated by Tyler Cann
Amoebic shapes populate Lye’s drawings, films, painting and sculpture from the 1920s to the 1970s. Gestating, absorbing and dividing, they reference our cosmic, psychological and biological development, linking notions of time (khronos) and the body (soma).
Lye’s works have provided their own inheritance, but his legacy has also been fodder for new creative work. The original musical score for Tusalava by Jack Ellitt has been lost, leaving contemporary composers to create new soundtracks, interpreting the film anew. Chronosome will present recent scores by Spanish-born composer Sergio López Figueroa and English composer and pianist Alcyona, as well as Lye’s suggested replacement by English composer Eugène Goosens. Accompanying the film will be several related photographs, paintings and sculptures.
Curator Tyler Cann says: “Toward the end of his life, Lye returned to some of his earliest works, which often referenced the beginnings of both art and life. The exhibition is about this reach into the past, but it also suggests that, as part of our art-historical DNA, so to speak, Lye’s work continues to mutate and grow.”
Len Lye is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most celebrated modern artists and a pioneer of experimental film and kinetic sculpture. His work is held in major collections worldwide including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; MoMA, New York; The British Film Institute, London; and the New Zealand Film Archive.
Lye died in 1980 in New York leaving his collection to the care of the Len Lye Foundation and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, which he described as ‘the swingiest art gallery in the antipodes’.
Plans are underway to realise a world centre for the celebration and continued exploration of Lye’s art and ideas in New Plymouth.