Rebecca Baumann <em>Once More with Feeling</em> 2014. Trivision billboard, plexiglass, theatre spotlight, 3300 x 4300 x 140mm. Courtesy of the artist and Starkwhite. Photo Bo Wong

Rebecca Baumann Once More with Feeling 2014. Trivision billboard, plexiglass, theatre spotlight, 3300 x 4300 x 140mm. Courtesy of the artist and Starkwhite. Photo Bo Wong

New stars of kinetic art at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

30 Aug 2016

Starting from the work of Len Lye, the Govett-Brewster presents Set in Motion, with work by four new generation artists working in the field of kinetic sculpture and experimental projection.

Continuing to shed new light on the art of Len Lye (1901-1980) with sculpture and film from the Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive, the exhibition presents kinetic sculpture, projection and live performance by Rebecca Baumann (Australia), Žilvinas Kempinas (Lithuania and USA), Taree Mackenzie (Australia) and Ross Manning (Australia).

Set in Motion (3 Sep – 27 Nov) considers how artists today experiment with everyday technical and industrial objects and materials in their explorations of movement, light and sound.

Director Simon Rees says “Len had it right when he famously said that his ‘work was looking pretty good for the 21st century’, as his kinetic sculpture Zebra looks right at home alongside this spectacular group of objects made today. We’re sure our audiences are going to be amazed”.

Exhibition curator Sarah Wall says Set in Motion celebrates the talents of a visionary New Zealand artist whose sculptures and films continue to resonate and excite in the 21st century.

“It inspires us to consider how Lye’s work continues to be a catalyst and source of inspiration for artists today,” Wall says.

She says the exhibition will push people towards sensory overload because of the dynamic play of colour, light and sculptures moving in space.

“Len Lye was an artist who constantly pushed the boundaries of his practice, experimenting with new materials, techniques and technology in his attempts to make motion ‘tangible’. One of Lye’s great skills was his resourcefulness and inventiveness in adapting tools and techniques to his own creative ends,” Wall says

Len Lye came to prominence through his experimental film and kinetic sculpture.  In Lye’s Zebra (1965, 2009), a fibreglass rod spins and swirls into constantly changing figures and patterns of motion.

Color Cry (1952-53) was the first direct film Lye made while living in New York’s Greenwich Village. Made by applying his own photogram techniques to film, Color Cry is much more than a film of colour and movement, it’s a play of shadow and light,” Wall says.

Central to Rebecca Baumann’s practice is her interest in colour and its effect and transference through different materials. In her kinetic sculpture Once More with Feeling (2014), Baumann replaced the aluminium prisms of a tri-vision billboard with transparent panels of plexiglass so when spot lit, lines of coloured light are cast around the space. 

Žilvinas Kempinas is a Calder Prize winner and has had works installed at major museums all over the world. His sculptures made from tape unspooled from old VHS tapes defy gravity and logic. He makes the tape dance and fly through the air – elevated by the breeze from domestic fans. Kempinas will travel to New Plymouth from New York in November, with the Museum Tinguely director, Roland Wetzel, for a public talk with Govett-Brewster director Simon Rees.

Using video equipment and props, Taree Mackenzie makes illusory images and environments. Viewers find it hard to match the image they see to the equipment producing it. In Black Line Formation (2013), an abstract play of lines move and intersect across a white screen. Nearby on the floor is a hand-cam, a light box, and a small geometric structure on top of a slowly spinning turntable; items that could easily be mistaken for materials or props from Mackenzie’s studio experiments are in fact devices for making the ‘live’ abstract film.

Ross Manning adapts and reuses everyday objects and technology to create kinetic sculptures that produce old school sci-fi visual effects. For Set in Motion, Manning presents a new kinetic sculpture based on his research in the Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive. Exploring the overlap between visual art and sound in his practice, the exhibition opening weekend will include a visual and audio performance by Manning. 

In addition to kinetic sculpture, Set in Motion will include drawings and sketches that give an insight into the artists’ thinking and working, drawing links with what they’ve made.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring commissioned essays by Amelia Groom, Adam Jasper, Hannah Mathews, Patrice Sharkey and Danni Zuvela.

Also opening at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery: Matt Henry: Long Division 27 Aug – 27 Nov; Open Collection #2: Kanohi ki te Kanohi (29 Aug – 27 Nov); Ruth Buchanan: The actual and its document, 10 Sep – 4 Dec; and WharehokaSmith: Kureitanga II IV (1 Sep – ongoing).



Rebecca Baumann Once More with Feeling 2014. Trivision billboard, plexiglass, theatre spotlight, 3300 x 4300 x 140mm. Courtesy of the artist and Starkwhite. Photo Bo Wong

Len Lye Zebra (1965, 2009). Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre. Photo Bryan James


Len Lye (New Zealand), Rebecca Baumann (Australia), Žilvinas Kempinas (Lithuania and USA), Taree Mackenzie (Australia), Ross Manning (Australia)

Related public programme

The exhibition is complemented by a varied accompanying programme.

Ross Manning performance – Saturday 3 September, 3pm (live streaming)

Taree Mackenzie artist talk – Saturday 3 September, 2pm

Family Art with artist Taree Mckenzie – Sunday 4 September, drop in 1-3pm

Žilvinas Kempinas in conversation with Govett-Brewster Art Gallery director Simon Rees –November (date TBC)

For high-res images or further enquiries please contact:

Kelly Loney
Communications Co-ordinator
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 had it right when he famously said that his ‘work was looking pretty good for the 21st century'