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. These will be presented alongside ephemera, drawings, and written texts annotated with doodles, book covers, and film strip samples that demonstrate Lye’s filmmaking techniques. 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; and Free 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.
Len Lye: Motion Sketchis made possible with the support of Creative New Zealand. All Souls Carnival (1957). Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation. From material preserved and made available by the New Zealand Archive Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua. Courtesy of of thee Museum of Modern Art. Digital version by Park Road Post Production and Weta Digital Ltd. Tusalava, (1929); Rainbow Dance (1936); Trade Tattoo (1937); Colour Flight (1938); Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation. From material preserved and made available by the New Zealand Archive Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua. Free Radicals (1958/1979); Tal Farlow (1980); Particles in Space (1980). Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation. From material preserved and made available by the New Zealand Archive Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua. Digital version by Park Road Post Production and Weta Digital Ltd. A Colour Box (1935). Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation. From material preserved by the BFI National Archive and made available by the New Zealand Film Archive Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua.