This month we publish the first collection of Len Lye’s poetry. Mostly known around the world for his experimental films and kinetic sculpture, it’s arguable that Lye’s largest creative undertakings were literary. We published Lye’s 1941 essay ‘Individual Happiness Now: A Definition of a Common Purpose’ in 2017 and decided it would be suitable to follow up with a collection of Lye’s poetry.
Lye’s poetry was published in various places during his lifetime, including Life and Letters Today and the Tiger’s Eye. Unknown to most of his audience, poems accompanied many of his paintings and were often written on the back of the work.
Thanks to the work of Lye’s biographer, Roger Horrocks, the artist’s poetry has been available to contemporary audiences, notably at the NZEPC. Working with Roger to produce the first printed collection of Lye’s poetry has been a highlight of my time at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre.
Architecture New Zealand magazine recently published my short text about celebrating 40 years of Len Lye at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery around the Sky Snakes exhibition. It’s now available online here.
Currently running at the MMCA in Seoul is the exhibition Movement Making Movememnt featuring animated films by Lotte Reiniger, Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, Karel Zeman, and Norman McLaren. My essay “Cinematic Splashes” features in the catalogue which you can buy here.
Brett Graham’s exhibition Tai Moana, Tai Tangata opened at City Gallery Wellington recently. More details here. Reconfigured for the CGW galleries, the exhibition drops two works and gains the new work below, Monument (2020). There’s a new RNZ interview with the artist this week too.
The Govett-Brewster’s earlier version of the exhibition is now available as a virtual tour, here.
Here’s the first in several updates over the coming months on the Govett-Brewster’s latest exhibition, Brett Graham: Tai Moana Tai Tangata. More details on the exhibition here. The exhibition is curated by Anna-Marie White.
Radio NZ covers the exhibition here and Taranaki Daily News has two pieces here and here. Below is an interview with exhibition curator Anna-Marie White on Access Radio Taranaki.
This week’s big news is Dries van Noten’s announcement of their summer 2021 collection – inspired by Len Lye. This was something that’s been under wraps since New Zealand’s Covid19 lockdown earlier this year and an uplifting way to start seeing out the year. And hopefully anticipating a better 2021.
Check out the international coverage of the summer 2021 collection with the New York Times, Vogue, Forbes, and Esquire. First coverage in Aotearoa via the New Zealand Herald’s Viva.
Lye’s experimental films inform many of the pieces in the collection. Particularly works like Trade Tattoo and Rainbow Dance, both made in the 1930s and many decades ahead of MTV.
What’s interesting is that even before Lye was making these films, he dabbled in textile design (an area I’ve spent much of the last year researching). Not long after arriving in London in 1926 and settling in Hammersmith, Lye connected with the Footprints workshop. Established by Gwen Pike, Elspeth Little and Celandine Kennington at Durham Wharf in 1925, Footprints was known for produced hand block printed fabric, curtains, coats and shawls. You can see some examples of the studio’s work here.
Lye’s work associated with the studio largely involved batik scarves and cushions which he likely sold in the Footprints shop to aid his finances while working on his first film, Tusalava. A few examples are extant in the Len Lye Foundation Collection including several works documented below.
The two larger works above are Watershed and Pond People, both made in the late 1920s. Lye retained these two scarves (or shawls) himself and Watershed he claimed to be his favourite work of all. Other works were either sold or gifted to friends. One was gifted to Gertrude Stein sometime around 1930 and another gifted to Laura Riding. Riding’s shawl featured in the transition magazine in 1929.
Pleased to say the Sky Snakes exhibition will be extended until April 2021 given its huge popularity with our audience and the interruptions of Covid19. We only just installed the work before Aotearoa went into its lockdown. But back up and running for the last few months, it’s been a big hit.
Here’s my favourite photograph of the work. The photographer is Jürgen Eisenhauer.
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s new issue in the STATEMENTS essay series is now available for purchase at the Gallery shop. Commissioned in association with the Govett-Brewster’s 2018 exhibition ‘Sensory Agents‘ and edited by exhibition curator Sarah Wall, Tangible/Intangible: The Sound of Sculpture looks to sculptural practices that explicitly employ sound as a medium.
Scholar and curator Caleb Kelly explores the development of sound arts through sculptural form and installation practices. The practices that he investigates uncover a changing understanding of the nature of sculpture itself and a new perspective of the importance of the senses in our appreciation of the arts. Tangible/Intangible includes examples from a diverse range of international artists such as Laurie Anderson, Vicky Browne, Eric Demetriou Rafael Ferrer, Rebecca Horn, Paul Kos, Len Lye, Ross Manning, Max Neuhaus, Jean Tinguely, Takis and Pia van Gelder.
Tangible/Intangible: The Sound of Sculpture is published as part of the Govett-Brewster’s STATEMENTS series of commissioned essays. Other titles in the series include texts by Len Lye and Erika Balsom.