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Len Lye exhibition opens at the Govett-Brewster

Media release
12 July 2011

Largest Len Lye exhibition in New Zealand opens at the Govett-Brewster

'Why not make art that really moves?' With this simple, startling idea, Len Lye (1901-1980) discovered an aesthetic principle that would drive his work for the next 60 years.

From September 10, Len Lye will fill New Plymouth's Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in the largest exhibition of his work ever presented in New Zealand. The Govett-Brewster has been home to the Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive for more than 30 years.

Working largely in London and New York, Len Lye's hand-painted 'direct' films and motorised steel sculptures have made him one of New Zealand's most important and influential modern artists.

The exhibition Len Lye:All Souls Carnival takes its name from Lye's 1957 film of the same name. Arguably Lye's most kaleidoscopic and ambitious cinematic experiment, the film was originally presented at New York's Carnegie Hall along with a live orchestral piece by American composer Henry Brant. Lye biographer and film scholar Roger Horrocks has restored the film with the assistance of the New Zealand Film Archive and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, which holds the original hand-painted material.

A dazzling, choreographed mix of sound, light and movement, the exhibition Len Lye: All Souls Carnival includes many of Lye's most iconic works as well as several that have not been seen in decades. The thundering sounds of Lye's 1977 sculpture Trilogy (A Flip and Two Twisters) will resonate through the Govett-Brewster and favourites Universe (1963-1976) and Blade (1959-1976) will be joined by a new reconstruction of Lye's raucous sculpture Bell Wand. Several early paintings that have never previously been exhibited in a public gallery will also feature.

Curator Tyler Cann says, "This is the first time we have set out to choreograph the activation of films and sculptures along with music and recordings of Lye's voice, so that the exhibition reveals itself over time in a layered experience of sound, light and movement".

The exhibition also comes soon after a Government announcement of $4million from its Regional Museums Policy for Capital Construction Projects towards the building of the Len Lye Centre.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Director Rhana Devenport says, "This important new exhibition preludes the unique and exemplary experiences that the Len Lye Centre will permanently offer our future audiences."

Architectural plans for the centre, developed by internationally recognised New Zealand firm Patterson Associates, have also been released for the building that will function as a combined facility with the Govett-Brewster. With further fundraising planned, construction of the Len Lye Centre is expected to start in 2012 to open in late 2014.

Len Lye's (1901 - 1980) work is also held in major collections worldwide including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; MoMA, New York and The British Film Institute, London. Lye's work continues to be exhibited in museums internationally, with recent solo exhibitions at Hordalund Kunstsenter in Bergen Norway, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne. Lye's work was recently exhibited in MoMA's Abstract Expressionist New York and is currently included in Watch Me Move: The Animation Show at London's Barbican Art Gallery. Lye's film Tusalava (1929) features in the upcoming exhibition Animism at the Generali Foundation, Vienna.

Len Lye: All Souls Carnival is at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, from 10 September to 27 November 2011, as part of the REAL New Zealand Festival.


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