01 Jun 2016
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre presents the most complete study of cameraless photography to date. The exhibition focuses on the cameraless mode from the 1830s through to today, offering a global perspective on this way of working.
Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph is the first comprehensive survey of cameraless photography held anywhere in the world, presenting more than 200 examples, from 1839 – when photography’s invention was announced – through to contemporary artists.
The theme of the exhibition is inspired by artist Len Lye’s cameraless photographs from 1930 and 1947, and it’s the first time all 52 of Lye’s photograms have been seen together. Emanations is an opportunity to put Lye’s photographic work in a suitably global context, surrounded by his predecessors, contemporaries and successors.
Curator Geoffrey Batchen says Emanations offers the opportunity for a New Zealand-initiated exhibition to make a vital and timely contribution to a world history of photography.
The exhibition has work by photographic pioneers William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins, important modernist photographers Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy, and many of today’s most significant photographic artists including Walead Beshty, Marco Breuer, Liz Deschenes, Joan Fontcuberta, Christian Marclay, Thomas Ruff, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Emanations also includes work by both senior and emerging Australian and New Zealand artists, from Anne Noble and Anne Ferran to Andrew Beck and Justine Varga.
The exhibition presents artwork by more than 50 artists hailing from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, England, Canada and the United States.
Almost every photographic process is included in the exhibition – photogenic drawings, calotypes, daguerreotypes, and tintypes, as well as gelatin silver, chromogenic and ink-jet photographic prints, photocopies, verifax and thermal prints.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major book by the same name and on the same theme, co-published by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and DelMonico Books/Prestel, based in New York and Germany. The book contains 184 full-page colour plates and a 25,000 word essay by Geoffrey Batchen. The Govett-Brewster is also publishing another book reproducing all the cameraless photographs by Len Lye, along with an essay by Wystan Curnow.
Emanations is curated by Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of Art History at Victoria University of Wellington, and a world-renowned historian and curator of photography.
What is a cameraless photograph?
Emanations explores the magic of photography in its most primal and elemental form.
Cameraless photographs can look like abstractions but they are in fact the most realist photographs; in them, nature gets to represent itself. These photographs strip away everything that is extraneous to the act of photographing and let the world speak to us directly – as an emanation of that world, rather than as its copy.
A cameraless photograph is a contact print in which something (such as a botanical specimen, a piece of clothing or rays of light) is made to touch a piece of light-sensitive film or paper and leave an impression, without any mediation.
The earliest surviving photographs, from the 1820s, were made in this way. This is also the first type of photograph most people made during the analog era, when first introduced to a darkroom or to photographic chemistry.
A cameraless photograph usually reproduces its subject as a reversed-tone image – what we would also call a negative – so that the subject appears to be emanating its own light.
Image: Len Lye Georgia O’Keeffe 1947 photogram. Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre
NOTES TO EDITORS
For high-res images, further enquiries and/or a review copy of the book Emanations 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.
Emanations includes many masterpieces of photographic art never before seen in New Zealand and showcases the talents of some of the world’s leading contemporary photographic artists.