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Len Lye: Five Fountains and a Firebush

Media Release

26 November 2007


Len Lye: Five Fountains and a Firebush

7 December 2007 – 24 February 2008


Len Lye’s kinetic sculpture takes centre stage at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery this summer in Five Fountains and a Firebush from 7 December 2007 – 24 February 2008.

A gently rotating spray of stainless steel rods, Fountain is one of Len Lye’s most graceful kinetic sculptures. Five different versions of this work, ranging from table-top sculptures to near-monumental works, come together for the first time in this exhibition alongside a shimmering variation called Firebush.

One Fountain in the exhibition is owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and another will be on loan from Len Lye’s grandson, Benjamin Lindenhahn. Two of the works, including Firebush, have been reconstructed by the Len Lye Foundation according to the artist’s designs and will be seen here for the first time.

Rhana Devenport, Govett-Brewster Director says, “Five Fountains and a Firebush offers a rare opportunity to experience these captivating works simultaneously. The Govett-Brewster is delighted to present these important works from local and international collections together for the first time“.

Tyler Cann, curator of the exhibition, says while every work in the exhibition has a similar form, each offers something quite unique.

“Seen together, their differences of scale speak to a physical relationship between the work of art and the spectator that was important to Lye,” he says.

The interplay of sound and motion was a fascination and inspiration to Lye. While his sculptures often generate their own sounds, Lye also chose to present them with music.  The last time Lye’s Fountain and Firebush were exhibited together at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1961 was one such occasion. For this exhibition he played a modernist composition by Pierre Boulez as well as African tribal percussion. Taking its cue from this historic exhibition, Five Fountains and a Firebush will also feature Lye’s original choice of music.

Len Lye is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most celebrated modern artists and a pioneer in both filmmaking and kinetic sculpture. His work is held in major collections worldwide including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the British Film Institute and the New Zealand Film Archive.

Lye died in 1980 in New York, leaving his collection to the care of the Len Lye Foundation and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, which he once described as ‘the swingiest art gallery of the Antipodes’.

Plans are underway to realise a world centre for the celebration and continued exploration of Lye’s work and ideas in New Plymouth.

Devenport says the planned centre, will ensure the protection and exhibition of the extraordinary cultural asset represented by the Len Lye Collection.
“Lye was an artist well ahead of his time and his work and ideas continue to have powerful resonance for audiences in New Zealand and globally,” she says.

Len Lye’s Grandson Benjamin Lindenhahn will visit New Zealand in December to open this latest exhibition at the Govett-Brewster.

In the presentation of Five Fountains and a Firebush the Gallery acknowledges the ongoing support of Radio Network Taranaki and Aalto Colour.


Also showing:

Ngahina Hohaia: Roimata Toroa

15 December 2007 – 2 March 2008

Paintings from remote communities: Indigenous Australian art from The Laverty Collection, Sydney

15 December 2007 – 24 February 2008

Terry Urbahn: The Sacred Hart

8 December 2007 – 2 March 2008



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