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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m just coming to the end of three days in Basel assisting with some preparation for Museum Tinguely’s upcoming exhibition Len Lye – Motion Composer. Opening in October, this will be the most substantial exhibition of Lye’s work ever seen in Europe. Previous surveys at the Pompidou Centre and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham were large exhibitions but Motion Composer is a very deep dig into the Len Lye Foundation collections at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.
One of the highlights of being in Basel again is seeing Jean Tinguely’s restored Méta-Harmonie II. Likewise, with Motion Composer, Museum Tinguely will be including a number of recently restored Len Lye works from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Albright-Knox Art Museum.
On 6 April the Govett-Brewster launched a new season of exhibitions including Mikala Dwyer’s Earthcraft (curated by Sarah Wall), Nicolás Paris’ what connects us (curated by Sarah Wall), Suspended Agency: An installation by Peter Wareing (curated by Mark Williams, Circuit), He Rere Ke – Different Pathways (curated by Gabrielle Belz) and several projects under my curation – Shannon Novak’s Sub Rosa and two Len Lye exhibitions, No Trouble and Art That Moves (co-curated with Emma Glucina).
I’ll follow up on each of these in more detail in the coming weeks. For now, here are a couple this week’s radio interviews concerning two projects. First, artist and curator Gabrielle Belz talking about her Open Collection project with us, He Rere Ke – Different Pathways. Second, Peter Wareing in conversation with Lynn Freeman around his new installation Suspended Agency.
This week we celebrate W. H. Auden’s birthday. Here’s Hannah Arendt’s 1975 New Yorker piece on the poet and above is Len Lye’s 1947 photogram portrait of Auden. The portrait includes lines from Auden’s The Fall of Rome (in his own hand). You can find all of Lye’s photogram portraits in this publication, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Miró, Hans Richter, Le Corbusier and Baby Dodds.
Artist Shannon Novak has been interviewed about his thoughts on the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with Home magazine. Shannon will be exhibiting in the next season of exhibitions (April – July 2019) at the Gallery with Sub Rosa.
A few weeks back I was interviewed for a Taranaki Daily News article about the Gallery’s screening of The Room(dir. Tommy Wiaeau), one of the stranger media moments I’ve experienced.
Reading about the downfall of New York art dealer Mary Boone I was directed to this interesting piece about her fellow dealer Leo Castelli.
Last week I spoke at the opening of our new suite of exhibitions, a rather large suite featuring Haegue Yang’s first exhibition in Aotearoa, Triple Vita Nestings (touring from the IMA in Brisbane), Maureen Lander’s Flat-pack Whakapapa (touring from the Dowse Art Museum), new works from Richard Maloy and Jacqueline Elley and two new Len Lye exhibitions. This all wraps up 2018 and carries us through to 2019.
Here’s this week’s e-flux announcement of highlights from our 2019 programme.
The evening was also time to celebrate the work of Peter Peryer (1941-2018) who passed away in November. We arranged a small exhibition of Peter’s work for the summer season. The Govett-Brewster has a modest number of works in its collection which you can browse here. I’ll write more on Peter’s work in the coming weeks.
The Free Radicals exhibition is the larger exhibition here and features works by Rodney Charters, Bruce Conner, Steve Cossman, Oskar Fischinger, Richard Lomas, Len Lye, Jodie Mack, and the Parasitic Fantasy Band (Eve Gordon/Sam Hamilton). The title of the show is obviously via Len Lye, but the subtitle was taken from Pip Chodorov in his similarly titled documentary Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film, speaking of ‘cinema on the wrong side of the tracks’. Throughout the exhibition, we’re screening Chodorov’s film alongside the exhibition as well as Brecht Debackere’s EXPRMNTL documentary which explores the EXPRMNTL film festival held in Belgium between the 1940s and 1970s. It was here that Lye’s 1958 film Free Radicals won a prestigious 2nd place. Lye’s 1959 essay ‘Is Film Art?’ lamented the neglect of experimental cinema in the United States and declared he would no longer make experimental films.