Thursday, 7 May 2009
"These [Lye's] sculptures are more relevant today than ever" - Robert Nelson, The Age
Len Lye on the set of Fountain of Hope, 1959
"Undoubtedly the greatest 20th century artist from the Australia-New Zealand axis ever to storm the art capitals of the world was Len Lye" -Adrian Martin, The Film Journal
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 on Thursday 16 July, 2009.
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 Australasia, 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.
The World Premiere of Len Lye will be at ACMI on Thursday 16 July and run until Sunday 11 October 2009.
Curated by Alessio Cavallaro, Senior Curator at ACMI, and Tyler Cann, Curator of the Len Lye Collection and Archives. Len Lye is presented by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), in collaboration with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (New Plymouth, New Zealand), and with the support of The Len Lye Foundation and the New Zealand Film Archive.
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