As a small boy growing up in Christchurch, Len Lye kicked a kerosene can around the backyard on a sunny day. The flash of light and clap of thunder that came from the empty can would provide inspiration for the rest of his life’s work. This revelatory moment—when surprise gave way to discovery—shaped an artistic career that took him to Samoa, London, New York and Mallorca. Bursting with irrepressible energy, Len Lye’s sculptures bang, crash, bounce, sway, rotate and swing. The exhibition shows major sculptural works alongside Lye’s films, drawings and paintings.
Len Lye Storm King 1964 (1997 reconstruction)
Len Lye Firebush 1961 (2007 reconstruction)
Len Lye Witch Dance 1965 (2016 reconstruction)
Len Lye Sketchbook (Totem and Taboo) circa 1924
Len Lye Polynesian Connection 1979.
Len Lye Grass 1961-5
Len Lye Rotating Harmonic 1960 (2009 reconstruction)
All Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/ Len Lye Centre
Len Lye Universe 1976 (1998 reconstruction) steel, wood, electromagnets. Edmiston Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Te Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1995.
Len Lye Roundhead 1961 (2009 reconstruction) Private collection, Christchurch
Len Lye Blade 1998 Collection of John and Lynda Matthews, New Plymouth
Len Lye Tusalava 1929 Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation. Digital version from material preserved and made available by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
Len Lye Tal Farlow c.1958, rev. 1981. Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation. Digital version by Park Road Post Production and Weta Digital Ltd from material preserved and made available by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
Len Lye painting the film Colour Flight 1938. Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/ Len Lye Centre
Len Lye: Stopped Short by Wonder
An exhibition inspired by a flash of light and a thunderclap.
Len Lye Works
The glancing body of a hooked swordfish; the shivering skin of a panicky horse; a shiny tin kicked in rage by a young boy outside the Cape Campbell lighthouse. This triptych of memories was the inspiration for avant-garde New Zealand sculptor, painter and film-maker Len Lye’s Blade (1972–4) – a vertical band of steel that curves, flexes, arches then hammers frenetically against a cork ball in a fury of light, sound and movement.