Len Lye

An Artist in Perpetual Motion

In the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of his work to date, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in collaboration with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery will open the world premiere retrospective of internationally acclaimed 20th century New Zealand artist Len Lye.

Art Exhibition previously on at ACMI - Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne precinct, Victoria, Australia.
From Thursday 16 July 2009 to Sunday 11 October 2009

Len Lye from Rainbow Dance  image

Published by anonymous on Wednesday 03 June 2009.
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Len Lye will feature art works and materials never exhibited before – ranging from early sketches, paintings and batiks,
through to his photographic work, animation and documentary films, and extraordinary motorised kinetic sculptures.

ACMI Director, Tony Sweeney, says Len Lye will provide Australian audiences with an unprecedented opportunity to
experience the depth of Len Lye’s work.

‘Len Lye is one of the 20th century’s most significant experimental artists to come out of Australiasia, and it is an absolute
honor to be working so closely with our peers in New Zealand at the Govett-Brewster on such an exciting and dynamic
exhibition,’ Tony says. ‘An experimental film-maker, poet, painter, kinetic sculptor and theorist, Lye is considered a seminal
figure in the history of the moving image and one of the more radical creative minds of the twentieth century’.

An artist in perpetual motion, Lye (1901-1980) was always responding to the emerging artistic movements of the times that
were pushing boundaries and developing new ways of thinking, seeing and creating but he was never bound by their
parameters. A self-directed artist who saw art as movement, sound and transformation, Lye was always integrating art
forms and working across different mediums.

After spending extended periods of time in Samoa and Sydney exploring indigenous art and modernism in the 20’s, Lye felt
isolated artistically so he moved to London where he began experimenting with filmmaking techniques. Works such as A
Colour Box (1935), a British Post Office advertisement, combined vibrant and basic animation techniques witb a soundtrack of
Cuban Jazz. With these and other remarkable works, Lye pioneered the technique of ‘direct filmmaking’, involving painting,
drawing, animating and stenciling directly onto celluloid. His work in film has and continues to influence generations of
experimental filmmakers including Norman McClaren and Stan Brakhage.

Although Lye did not see himself as a Surrealist, he exhibited his paintings in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in
London because it appealed to him that the Surrealists were a ‘rebellious bunch’. He exhibited alongside artists including
Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Joan Miró and Man Ray. Lye’s close friend Dylan Thomas contributed to the exhibition by
offering boiled string in teacups and asking people whether they liked the tea ‘weak or strong’.

In 1944 Lye moved to New York and contributed to an upsurge in experimental film-making in the USA. Living in Greenwich
Village during the Beat and avant-garde scene of the 50’s, Lye remained relatively undiscovered as he continued working
outside the mainstream 50’s and 60’s art movements. In 1958, Lye began experimenting with ‘tangible motion sculptures’.
He continued to explore the relationship between sound and movement through his astounding sculptures, many of which
will be featured in the ACMI exhibition.

Co-curated by ACMI senior Curator Alessio Cavallaro and Tyler Cann of the Govett Brewster, Len Lye capitalises on the resurgence of Lye’s work internationally. Alessio Cavallaro says, “As the ubiquity of the moving image in contemporary culture drives a re-appraisal of its history, the critical recognition of Lye’s films has increased. Less well-known is the diverse range of media, styles and places in which the artist worked. Len Lye reveals the links and connections that inform and unite his diverse practice, which includes experimental films, paintings and sketches, photographic works and kinetic steel sculptures.”

This unforgettably exuberant exhibition surveys his kaleidoscopic work with colour, his daring work with sound and movement
and his fascination with indigenous cultures and creativity. Len Lye presents a new and invigorating look at one of Australasia’s most significant and singular modern artists.

Exhibition Talks > Free

Thu 16 Jul 6pm
Roger Horrocks on Len Lye’s Art of Motion
Roger Horrocks explores what the world of art – and the world in general – may have looked like through the eyes of an artist whose primary
interest was “the mystery of motion.” Roger Horrocks, who once worked as Lye’s assistant, is the author of Len Lye: A Biography
(2001), and Art that Moves, a sequel that examines Lye’s ideas about the art of motion, which will be published later this year. He is a widely
published film historian and is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Auckland. Studio 1 > Free!

Fri 17 Jul 11am, Thu 23 Jul 6pm
Curator Tour
Join the curators for an in-depth tour of the exhibition, filled with behind-the-scenes insights that contributed to the realisation of this
major survey. Alessio Cavallaro (Senior Curator, ACMI) will be joined at the first of these tours by co-curator Tyler Cann (Curator, Len Lye
Collection). Screen Gallery > Free!