Fa-fa-fa-fa-fashion

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.

Dries Van Noten SS21 Menswear and Womenswear Collection | September 30, 2020 
PHOTO CREDIT: VIVIANE SASSEN

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.

Len Lye: Motion Composer, Museum Tinguely, 2019. Photo: Paul Brobbel

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.

Len Lye, ‘Laura Riding Shawl / Jacob’s Ladder’, 1929

Extended by popular demand

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.

Weekend Reading

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The four issue of the Midwest magazine founded and published by the Govett-Brewster in the 1990s are now available online for free here – a project lockdown allowed me to finish.

This week was a good time to return to Erin White’s coverage of curator Chaedria LaBouvier’s experience working with the Guggenheim.

Lucy Ives at Art in America on Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne.

Erika Balsom and Barry Schwabsky each review Hal Forster’s What Comes After Farce? Art and Criticism at a Time of Debacle.

New Publication – Caleb Kelly’s ‘Tangible/Intangible: The Sound of Sculpture’

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.

Order a copy here.

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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.

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Lockdown Reading #1

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Edward Hopper, ‘Second Story Sunlight’, 1960

Having recently spent some time with the  Fondation Beyeler Edward Hopper exhibition, this piece in the Guardian caught my attention – the artist of the coronavirus age?

Oliver Basciano at the TLS on Europe’s last leprosarium.

The Guardian reviews Diana Souhami’s new book No Modernism Without Lesbians.

Listening to this interview with curator David Campany alongside a virtual tour of Walker Evans Revisited at Kunsthalle Mannheim – both here.

And Bob Dylan’s new track … (an elegy for the counterculture at Pitchfork).

 

 

 

 

Len Lye’s ‘Sky Snakes’

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This weekend the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery celebrated its 50th birthday with a party and the debut of Len Lye’s Sky Snakes. There’s a fair bit of coverage in the New Zealand media, including this from the NZ Herald and this from Radio NZ.

Sky Snakes is not so familiar to most of Lye’s audience. The original, single, Sky Snake featured in the 1965 Buffalo Festival of the Arts and also at the Howard Wise Gallery in NY (also in 1965). The original work is in the Len Lye Foundation Collection but never exhibited. A single Sky Snake was recently reconstructed by the Len Lye Foundation and featured in the recent Len Lye: Motion Composer exhibition at Museum Tinguely in Basel.

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‘Sky Snake’ in ‘Len Lye: Motion Composer’, Museum Tinguely, Oct 2019 – Jan 2020. Credit: Paul Brobbel

The presentation of the work at the Govett-Brewster is a seven-piece ensemble of Sky Snakes and one of the largest if most gentle of Lye’s kinetic sculptures. Here’s a slow-motion clip of the work performing.

 

 

Australian Bushfires

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Auckland Domain, 5 January 2020 (credit: Paul Brobbel)

This was the view outside Auckland Museum on 5 January 2020, the Australian Bushfires making themselves felt across the Tasman.

This link outlines how you can make a financial donation in support of people affected by the fires. Also check out responses from the art community, including the Australian Bushfire Appeal Print Sale where proceeds from buying a print from over 50 photographers will go towards victims of the fires.

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Auckland Domain, 5 January 2020 (credit: Paul Brobbel)

 

 

Motion Composer

I’ve been waiting to cover the Len Lye: Motion Composer exhibition at Museum Tinguely in Basel in detail closer to the end of the project; however, above is a quick look through the catalogue published by Kehrer Verlag and Museum Tinguely and here is a review of the catalogue by John Hurrell at EyeContact.

The publication features writing by Scott Anthony, Tyler Cann, Wystan Curnow, Roger Horrocks, Andres Pardey, Janine Randerson, Barry Schwabsky, Ann Stephen, Megan Tamati-Quennell, Roland Wetzel, as well as myself.

You can order from Kehrer Verlag here or from Museum Tinguely here.

Waking Up Slowly

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Elizabeth Thomson, ‘Waking Up Slowly’ 2019. Photo: Bryan James

New exhibitions open on Saturday at the Govett-Brewster so a quick post concerning the exhibition that has just ended, Waking Up Slowly: Elizabeth Thomson and Len Lye. We commissioned this project from curator Greg O’Brien.

You can read a copy of the catalogue here.

Len Lye on the Home Front

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Kill or Be Killed (1942)

This week I’ll be introducing a programme of Len Lye’s films at Stadtkino Basel accompanying the symposium hosted by Museum Tinguely and the University of Basel. Len Lye on the Home Front presents eight of Lye’s films made during the Second World War and a work from his early days in New York, the March of Time newsreel, Night Club Boom.

Many of these films are rarely screened. Musical Poster #1 (1942) and Kill or Be Killed (1942) tend to be represented in summaries of Lye’s filmmaking; however, Newspaper Train (1942), When the Pie was Opened (1941) and Work Party (1942) in particular deserve more attention.