Tuesday 15 November 2016

Len Lye in New Plymouth, New Zealand

Len Lye
The connections go back a long way. The Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth was first guided four decades ago by the 24 year old, young and already a dynamic force, John Maynard later the mentor of Vincent Ward, Jane Campion and many more. Now, after building a quite remarkable new extension that was completed in 2015, the building houses a unique collection of the archives and work of Len Lye.

Most prominent is the signature piece that is 'performed' twice daily known as "Trilogy (A Flip and Two Twisters").  It was first shown in 1977. It consists of three pieces of shiny stainless steel which, for ten minutes at a time, rotate with varying degrees of movement, each producing sound from the gentle to the near ear-splitting. Lye made it in his New York studio. It develops with considerable ferocity, at times producing some quite extraordinary effects of colour and movement. It even appears threatening for you wonder just what would happen if the mechanism that turns and twists the metal were to break down or the steel pieces were to work their way loose. This reportedly happened once back in 1999. No damage to human life was recorded.

The Govettt Brewster Gallery containing the Len Lye Centre
The current show at the rest of the museum has another small Lye piece titled "Zebra" which works up a a beautiful rotation for five minutes every twenty minutes or so. It is included in a series of of other kinetic pieces.

There is a daily screening lasting half an hour of some of Len Lye's films. The current selection is titled "Projection Series #4 Man Without a Camera. It runs until 16 December when I assume another selection from the full complement of Lye's work will be offered. You can buy a DVD published by the Museum titled Colour Box: 19 Films by Len Lye for $NZ30.00. on the premises.

Wind Wand by Len Lye
I don't have enough biographical information to hand or in my head so the best I can do at the moment is put in this Wikipedia link which will at least start you off in the right direction. Hopefully it will lead you to New Plymouth for the Lovett-Brewster Gallery (big thanks to John Maynard) and for the spectacular "Wind Wand" a few hundred metres away down on the very rocky coastline that the town edges right up to. Lye died in 1980 and year by year New Plymouth is expanding both its collection and the interest in his work. It's a model of its kind.

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