Len Lye Shadowgraphs
Published on the occasion of the Govett-Brewster’s landmark exhibition, Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph, Shadowgraphs brings Len Lye’s body of cameraless photographs together for the first time.
In the tradition of acclaimed photogram works by Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy, Lye’s shadowgraphs are startling works of art, rarely exhibited in the artist’s lifetime and yet an intriguing contribution to the world of Modernist photography.
The earliest works, and just a handful in number, take us through Lye’s off-kilter relationship with Surrealism during the 1930s with Marks and Spenser in a Japanese Garden and Self Planting at Night appearing alongside the unfamiliar Watershed and Earth Magnetic. The larger portion of the work date to 1947, capturing an image of Lye in post-war New York; a body of 41 silhouette portraits of Lye’s neighbours, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. A photographic treasure in itself, this body of portraits (including Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Miró and Le Corbusier) has never before been documented in its entirety.
With an introduction by Len Lye Curator and publication editor Paul Brobbel, Shadowgraphs republishes Wystan Curnow’s 2009 essay ‘Len Lye’s Portrait Photograms’ alongside more than 55 photographs capturing Lye’s unique photographic practice.