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Lights, camera, action and Len Lye

Media Release

27 May 2004

Lights, camera, action and Len Lye to open at Govett-Brewster

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery opens two new exhibitions: Lights>camera>action: critical moments from the collections 1969-2004 on June 19 and Len Lye: Art in motion on 12 June.

The Len Lye exhibition explores Lye's fascination with movement in film, kinetics and painting. It provides a rare opportunity to see all of Lye’s major and ever popular kinetic works at one time and is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. “Due to conservation programming Art in motion (12 June – 15 August) will be the last exhibition of Lye's major kinetics for an extended period of time, so this exhibition should not to be missed” says Gallery director Greg Burke.

Lye was captivated by motion in all its forms - from tennis to ballet, from cartoons to kung-fu movies. Lye biographer and Foundation trustee Roger Horrocks says “Len's art of movement is about getting us to REALLY SEE movement, to understand and enjoy it in a new way. And the other side of that is helping us to appreciate the stillness of a still image. He talked a lot about responding to motion not just with your eyes but with your body, really empathising with it. He compared watching a work of kinetic sculpture with watching the Olympics, getting so involved with those athletes expertly jumping or skating or hurdling that you can feel your own muscles start to tighten up!”

The exhibition draws on the Len Lye Foundation collection housed at the Gallery. The concurrent exhibition Lights>camera>action: critical moments from the collections 1969-2004 draws on other collections held at the Gallery including its permanent collection. It reflects the uniqueness and significance of the Govett-Brewster’s collection and the Gallery’s long commitment to acquiring and presenting works from New Zealand and the Pacific Rim considered cutting edge at the time of their production.

“From its opening in 1970, the Gallery has collected work at the leading edge of developments in artistic practice. The Gallery has often been the first institution to collect an artist’s work, including Ralph Hotere’s hard-edge Black Paintings that represent some of the earliest New Zealand experiments with tough monochrome painting, and are now celebrated as some of his most resolved works,” says Mr Burke.

Similarly, the Govett-Brewster was the New Zealand gallery that embraced Billy Apple’s 1979 Alterations series. Apple redesigned the Gallery’s own staircase, which remains today, into a work of art entitled Altered Staircase: the given as an art political statement 1980.

“On countless occasions, the Gallery has been the initial New Zealand institution to exhibit works by artists, or award them a major solo exhibition. A renowned example of this is the first New Zealand exhibition of Len Lye’s work presented at the Gallery in 1977 that forged important links between Lye, the Gallery, and the city of New Plymouth,” says Mr Burke.

The exhibition, which will showcase recent acquisitions alongside important works by Billy Apple, Sylvie Fleury, Darcy Lange, Colin McCahon and Michael Parekowhai, will feature a rare showing of Len Lye's kinetic masterpiece Trilogy (a flip and two twisters) for three weeks only from 19 June to 11 July. Trilogy, described by many international writers and critics as Lye’s greatest work, will be shown alongside Len Lye: art in motion.

Lights>camera>action includes drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, light work, film, and video. The exhibition pitches work from different eras together against contemporary culture, illustrating the continuing role that works from days gone by have in topical discussions about art history and culture.

A section of the exhibition traces a line from Len Lye’s use of Maori and Polynesian motif in his paintings of the 1920s to contemporary Mâori artists playing with European concerns of evolving New Zealand identity. Painting, often thought of as the most conservative art medium, is reconsidered as a space for cultural and political debate and as a driver of a developing national iconography.

New Zealand photography is featured in major suites of work by senior artists Laurence Aberhart, Fiona Clark and Peter Peryer as well as work by a younger generation of photographers including Gavin Hipkins and Yvonne Todd.

Lights>camera>action reflects the Gallery’s commitment to collecting ‘new media’ and the impact of this in the development of an artist’s career or in the evolution of experimental art forms such as Billy Apple’s scatter installation Neon Accumulation 1976, Don Driver’s combines, and Pae White’s major mobile sculpture Songbirds 2001.

“The Gallery has been a leader in collecting moving image based contemporary art, and a number of video and digital animation works are being presented in the exhibition,” says Mr Burke.

The exhibition presents a number of audience favourites including work by Hany Armanious, Shane Cotton, Tony Fomison, Jacqueline Fraser, Richard Killeen, Tom Kreisler, Callum Morton, John Reynolds, Peter Robinson, Kathy Temin, Gordon Walters, and Christopher Williams.

Lights>camera>action: critical moments from the Govett-Brewster collections
19 June – 8 August


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