The On and Island: Len Lye, Robert Graves and Laura Riding exhibition wraps up on 6 August at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre. The exhibition takes a look over Len Lye’s working relationship with the poets Robert Graves and Laura Riding. Many know of Lye’s friendship with Graves, less so the relationship with Riding. Both were important in expanding Lye’s practice.
One of the high points of the exhibition is the publication of Individual Happiness Now, an essay written by Lye and Graves establishing a set of values to counter the rise of fascism during the Second World War. Unpublished, it seemed more pertinent now than a typical exhibition catalogue. Lye’s biographer and editor of the essay, Roger Horrocks, appeared on Radio New Zealand, speaking to Kim Hill about Lye’s work with Graves on the essay while the text was briefly covered in the Nota Bene page of the Times Literary Supplement (No. 5955, 19 May 2017).
A small symposium organised by the Govett-Brewster, held on 9 June at the University of Auckland, took the exhibition as a starting point for a discussion of the Graves and Riding circle, looking at their collaborations with Lye and relationships with other figures such as John Aldridge and Gertrude Stein.
Following a welcome from Govett-Brewster Director Simon Rees, I opened with a brief overview of the relationship between Lye, Graves and Riding before Andrew Paul Wood (writer and critic) opened the conversation in earnest with Fantasy I(s)-Lands and Disputed Territories. Linda Tyler (University of Auckland) returned us to Lye with her paper An Artist in Every Child, A Child in Every Artist: Len Lye and the modernist avant-garde’s investment in children’s art followed by Raymond Spiteri (Victoria University of Wellington) addressing the frequent question of Lye as a surrealist in Dreams are not enough: surrealism in the Graves-Riding circle. The final two papers of the day were particularly interesting for those of us from the Lye side of the conversation with Lisa Samuels (University of Auckland) exploring Laura Riding’s work with John Aldridge around her illustrated poem The Life of the Dead and then Ann Vickery (Deakin University) with her closing paper ‘[B]eing brilliant trouble in arrangement’: Len Lye, Laura Riding, and Gertrude Stein as Acquaintances in Composition.
John Hurrell at Eyecontactwrites positively of both the publication of Individual Happiness Now and the symposium (having not seen the exhibition).
Yorkshire’s Hepworth Wakefield wins Art Fund UK Museum of the Year prize. I have to agree. I’ve had the fortune to visit the Wakefield on each of my trips back home to the UK and enjoy the museum more each time. In fact, wishing I was in the UK right now to catch the Wakefield’s Howard Hodgkin exhibition.
Reviews of The Body Laid Bare, Auckland Art Gallery’s exhibition of nudes from the Tate Collection, continue to stress the lack of colour.
Looking forward to this new biography of the photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, or Nadar as we all know him.
After some Friday night hectoring about exhibition making from someone fired up by Susan Sontag – “in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art” – I saw this Bookforum piece on Sontag’s diaries. The usual stuff. But it reminded me of something I wanted to read again. It’s close to ten years since filmmaker Errol Morris tackled Sontag’s accusation that Roger Fenton faked one of his most well-known photographs in a fascinating investigation for the New York Times. You’ll need some time to work through it, coming in three substantial episodes: Part One, Part Two, Part Three. Morris runs the gamut of what you can do (and the time you can spend) in thinking over a photograph, or two in this case.
Canada celebrates 150 years since its founding this week, however with somepause for thought for its indigenous cultures. David Balzer at Canadian Art writes on Canada’s settler-colonial kitsch and Adam Gopnik at the The New Yorker contemplates the foundation of the United States by comparison.
The Walker Art Centre is at the centre of another quagmire, this time around the Jimmy Durham retrospective. Hyperalleric has a good summary while the comments at Jezebel are quite ride.
And working as I do with kinetic sculpture this piece was a pleasant find this week – on the museum activators of Alexander Calder’s work. Add to that Jean-Paul Satre’s 1947 essay on Calder’s work for ARTnews.
A fair bit of talk lately of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’sLonely Hearts Club Band celebrating its 50th Birthday. Likewise, plenty of interest in Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains the blockbuster exhibition at the V&A. The TLS covers both in this review of related books. While a fan of the Beatles, I don’t have any great fondness for Sgt. Pepper’s, similarly with Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Both arguably the greatest of albums by anyone, but both far from the best by either band. On the matter of Their Mortal Remains, the consensus seems to be that it’s a stunning success. I didn’t see the Bowie Is or Bjork exhibitions that started this trend but I found the Floyd exhibition to be politically limp and technologically flawed. Which reminded me to reread an older review from the New Yorker regarding the Bjork exhibition fiasco.
‘Curating is undemocratic, authoritarian, opaque and corruptible.’ Stefan Heidenreich produces this week’s talking point for curators.
The Imperial War Museum North in Manchester has opened its new Wyndham Lewis exhibition Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War, the largest since the 1950s. The Telegraph reviews, noting the exhibitions is sadly not definitive but conveys Lewis’ promising but ultimately pitiful career.
This piece is a few weeks old and something I forgot to include in last week’s list – Joseph Fronczak at Jacobin on A Hobsbawm’s Long Century, a lengthy study of the historian, his commitment to communism and his place now, at the beginning of a new long century.
Quite a flurry of interest today around Google’s interactive Doodle celebrating the 117th birthday of filmmaker and painter Oskar Fischinger. The Telegraph celebrated too, with a round up of films available online. Happily for us here in New Plymouth, New Zealand, the celebrations coincide with Fischinger’s wonderful Raumlichtkunst (c. 1926/2012) on display at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre. If you enjoyed the Google game, have a look at a different (but better) game, Motion Phone, by Scott Snibbe, attributed by Snibbe to his love of both Lye and Fischinger’s filmmaking.
Check out this detailed list of materials and links on Fischinger and his work, or see the Centre for Visual Music to learn more about the films (including their great Vimeo channel for viewing the films).
There is plenty to read this week about the Grenfell Tower fire in London, however this piece stands out. Sanaz Movahedi’s account of her friend and fellow artist Khadija Saye.
Jonas Mekas has published a new edition of his diaries I Had Nowhere to Goin paperback with Spector Books. A short article from the Telegraph discusses the filmmaker’s photographs of the Wiesbaden and Kassel/Mattenberg Displaced Persons Camps, 1945–48 showing at Documenta.
On a recent but fleeting trip to London I saw the wonderful Alberto Giacometti exhibition at the Tate Modern. The Spectator rightly praises the challenging exhibition.