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Len Lye summer show at the Govett-Brewster

Len Lye summer show at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Gene pool, works from the collection, the latest in a continuing series of innovative Len Lye summer exhibitions is opening at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery on 6 December 2003.

The show addresses Lye’s interest in science and gene theory and features several previously unseen works by the expatriate kinetic sculptor, filmmaker and painter, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated artists of the 20th century.

The works in Gene pool have been drawn from the Len Lye Foundation Collection, held at the Gallery since 1977 when it became the first New Zealand institution to exhibit Lye’s work.

“Gene pool, works from the collection is the latest in a series of exhibitions that are a major draw card for visitors to the Taranaki region. The exhibition acknowledges the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s continuing interest and commitment, to display the works of Len Lye and further endorse his importance as a New Zealand artist and major international artist of the 20th century,” said Gallery director Greg Burke.

Works not previously shown in New Zealand include lively works on paper from the 1930s and 15 photographic stills from Lye’s first film Tusalava 1929. Lye’s famous Self-portrait (with night tree) 1947 and the portrait of famous American artist Georgia O’Keefe c.1947 are included alongside well known kinetic sculptures Round head 1961 and Grass 1961.

The project Gene pool, works from the collection, curated by the Govett-Brewster’s curator of contemporary art Simon Rees, follows the conclusion of Len Lye, a national touring exhibition with its final venue part of the opening programme of the Christchurch Art Gallery. The show was developed as a collaboration between the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Gene pool highlights Len Lye’s interest in genes and scientific theories about the world. Lye was a voracious reader and his theories developed instep with break-throughs in chemistry and biology with his images often reflecting cellular photographs captured by electron microscopes.

The exhibition examines the relationship between the natural or organic, and science and the machine. Examples of this tension are the film Tusalava 1929 depicting either a battle, or a symbiosis, between an organic and robotic entity and the kinetic sculpture Grass 1961, where a natural form and process are illustrated mechanically.

The works in Gene pool have been selected to complement the concurrent exhibition Bloom: mutation, toxicity and the sublime opening 13 December 2003. The exhibition features a contemporary artist perspective on genetics and mutation in the context of compelling and disturbing issues of catastrophic environmental change and the fascination with the monstrous.

Gene pool, works from the collection coincides with a summer programme of events including a photogram workshop, floor talks and special screenings of Len Lye films. This summer’s highlight Len Lye in the open air provides an opportunity for an evening’s viewing of Lye’s films amidst a stunning backdrop of New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park on 17 & 18 January 2004.

Gene pool, works from the collection 6 December 2003 – 29 February 2004

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