Len Lye


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Featuring a forward Brett Littman and essays by Gregory Burke, Tyler Cahn, and Len Lye.

Len Lye (1901–1980) is arguably one of the twentieth century’s most original artists; a one-man art movement spanning several countries and multiple media over a lifetime and beyond. As a New Zealander practising in London during the pre-war years, and then a key figure in the post-war New York avant-garde art scene, Lye mapped a unique course through Modernism.

This publication was produced on the occasion of a Len Lye exhibition at The Drawing Centre in New York in 2014.

“Len Lye’s career was marked by a lifelong fascination with movement and an aspiration to compose motion; the movement of the drawing hand was an important touchstone for his works in various media. In New York Lye is now well known for his animated experimental films. In the 1920s, however, Lye began to make what he termed “motion sketches”; abstract drawings that attempted to render the movement of his subjects, rather than their appearance. Motion Sketch reintroduces scholars and audiences in New York to Lye’s multidimensional practice specifically in relation to drawing. Describing his drawing practice in his own carefree prose, Lye said that doodling “cultivates a vacuous seaweed-pod state of kelp as a skull which is attached to a pencil betwixt the arm and the fingers held doodling in turn ‘twixt you and the paper in a rather bemused, empty, harmonious state of an attitude, eyes periphering said paper.” Lye’s kinesthetic approach to drawing—related to Surrealist automatism and anticipating aspects of Abstract Expressionism—also informed his practice in painting, photography, film and sculpture. Not limited to works on paper; the exhibition will instead reveal how Lye’s concept of “doodling” underpinned his approach to much of his work.

The exhibtion will include a selection of paintings, drawings, and photograms, never before seen in the United States. In The Drawing Center’s Lab gallery, an extensive film program will be presented on video, including such landmark films as Tusalava, 1929; A Colour Box, 1935; andFree Radicals, 1957/1979.

Len Lye: Motion Sketch is curated by Gregory Burke, Executive Director/CEO of both the Mendel Art Gallery and Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan and Co-Curator of the Montreal Biennale, 2014; and Tyler Cann, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Columbus Museum of Art. This exhibition is presented by The Drawing Center in collaboration with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (New Plymouth, New Zealand) and draws primarily from the Len Lye Foundation Collection.”

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