The business of energy and a feeling of zizz
8 September 2003
A travelling exhibition to celebrate
the centenary of the artist’s
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu
September – 16
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu is celebrating
the centenary of one of New Zealand’s most innovative artists in a
new exhibition, which opened on Friday.
Born in Christchurch, Len Lye is regarded
as a major influence on the modernist developments that had a radical
impact on the direction of art and film
in London and New York. The travelling exhibition, initiated by
the Art Gallery of New South Wales in partnership with New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster
Art Gallery and supported by the Len Lye Foundation, contains a range of
the artist’s works including films, photo-grams and three kinetic
Gallery Curator of Contemporary Art Felicity Milburn
says Len Lye’s
international reputation as a kinetic sculptor continues to grow.
“Len Lye is an important figure in the kinetic art movement of the
1950s and 60s,” says Felicity Milburn.
“His film work has also
had a significant influence on New Zealand popular culture.”
short films, including Tusalava (1929), Rainbow Dance (1936)
and Free Radicals (1979), are included in the exhibition, as well
as rare photo-grams
dating from 1947 and three kinetic sculptures, Universe (1963-1976),
Roundhead (1959) and Grass (1961).
As a filmmaker, Lye pioneered
cartoon animation and the technique of painting or scratching
patterns directly on to film.
“The shapes and patterns that the artist used in many of his direct-animation
films and paintings are drawn from his extensive studies of Pacific imagery,
rhythms and culture,” says Felicity Milburn.
“Many of his experimental photo-grams feature a ‘who’s
who’ of the friends and acquaintances Lye made in New York and London,
including W.H. Auden, Georgia O’Keefe and Le Corbusier.”
“And perhaps most dramatic are the artist’s kinetic works,
large scale sculptures encapsulating Len Lye’s fascination with movement,
which have inspired audiences worldwide.”
Len Lye is a joint exhibition between the Art Gallery of New South Wales
and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery supported by the Len Lye Foundation
and toured in New Zealand by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with
support from Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. The Len Lye Foundation is
by the Technix Group. The exhibition opened on Friday, 5 September
in Touring Gallery C and the Borg Henry Gallery of the Christchurch Art
will run until 16 November 2003.
About the Artist
Born in Christchurch in 1901, Lye grew up in Wellington,
returning to Christchurch in 1919 to study briefly under Archibald Nicoll
at the Canterbury College of Art. The artist moved to Australia
when he was 21 years old, before travelling extensively in the
Pacific Islands. Having previously experimented with moving sculptures,
in Australia Lye turned to film-making and experimenting with
what he called ‘direct film-making’, painting and
scratching directly onto film.
Lye moved to London in 1926 and continued
to experiment with film, as well as exploring the idea of ‘photo-grams’,
images made by putting something opaque or transparent onto light-sensitive
paper, exposing it
to light and then processing it. While living in England, Lye became
acquainted with avant-garde artists and writers and became a
member of the 7 and 5
Society, exhibiting regularly with them until 1934. He came into
contact with a number of art movements such as surrealism, abstract
and European kineticism.
It was when he moved to New York in 1944
that Lye returned to the idea of kinetic sculptures, inspired
by their dramatic possibilities.
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