Acclaimed for his experimental cinema from the 1930s through to the 1950s, Len Lye largely abandoned filmmaking at the close of the 1950s to join a thriving kinetic art scene.
With his self-proclaimed ‘maverick’ approach to kinetic sculpture, Lye stood apart from artists like Alexander Calder and George Rickey. He referred to himself as a “composer of motion” rather than as a kinetic sculptor and with work that emphasised not the material or physical body of sculpture but a visualisation of movement.
Lye coined the term “Tangible Motion Sculpture” for his sculptural works. One of Lye’s earliest “tangibles”, the outdoor Wind Wand, illustrates the term perfectly. The sculpture sways under the influence of an invisible wind, making that motion tangible to the viewer.
On 5 April 1961 Lye unveiled a suite of works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, delivered not as an exhibition of sculpture but as a carefully sequenced set of performances. The event was titled An Evening of Tangible Motion Sculpture and announced Lye’s ambitious practice.
This exhibition presents original and reconstructed works from this important phase of Lye’s career including Firebush, Watusi, Rotating Harmonic, Roundhead, Grass and Fountain.
Tangibles: 1959-1961 is accompanied in the Len Lye Centre’s upper ramp space with an extensive display of Lye’s sketches and plans for large scale kinetic works such as his Temple Project, Sun, Land & Sea, Universe Walk, Water Whirler, and Convolutions. These grand projects represent Lye’s ultimate vision of scale for his tangible works including several posthumously realised by the Len Lye Foundation and some still to come.