Art that moves : the work of Len Lye by Roger Horrocks

By Roger Horrocks

"One of the main unique artists to have emerged from New Zealand, Len Lye (1901-1980) had a keenness for stream from an early age. This fascination formed his pressing and pioneering movies and kinetic sculptures and contributed to his striking paintings in portray, images and writing. Lye had an important thought -- that circulation may be the foundation for a very new form of paintings -- and he dedicated a lot of his lifestyles to it. Read more...


'Kinetic artwork is the 1st new classification of artwork seeing that prehistory', ex-pat New Zealand artist Len Lye boldly claimed in an essay in 1964. What did he suggest by way of this? and the way does his personal paintings in sculpture Read more...

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The scarcity of engineering materials in post-revolutionary Russia made the project extremely difficult. After its completion, the work was exhibited in Moscow, then in several other European countries. As the first ‘kinetic sculpture’, it challenged reviewers to assess it in a new way. As the manifesto had recommended, this was art that sidelined colour and line and foregrounded energy and rhythm. Some spectators saw it merely as a gimmick, or as a kind of ‘demonstration model’, and some disapproved of the idea of machinery encroaching upon art.

Kempf’s book Psychopathology that inspired Lye to start making kinetic sculpture. Kempf’s caption described the object as a ‘copulation fetish by [an] impotent negro paranoic’ instructed by God to build the ‘first church of perpetual motion’. The final image (on the right) was a metal sculpture by Lye entitled Construction. Approximately 600mm high, this was included in the Seven and Five Society’s 1928 exhibition in London. Courtesy Len Lye Foundation. 46 can be defended more strongly than most versions, for it was far from superficial.

His later art of motion had a distinctive physicality, always involving the body as well as the mind. And he kept drawing on images of nature such as sea creatures and wave patterns. As a young artist he was also strongly drawn to the indigenous cultures of New Zealand and the South Pacific. 37 38 A personality can never be entirely explained by circumstances, but some of the dramatic events of his early life must have influenced him. On the darker side, the death of his father just after his third birthday made it necessary for him to be sent to a series of foster homes, and to live most of his childhood in poverty.

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