Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Art that moves - The Work of Len Lye - Roger Horrocks. Auckland University Press

‘Kinetic art is the first new category of art since prehistory’, ex-pat New Zealand artist Len Lye boldly claimed in an essay in 1964. In Art that Moves: The Work of Len Lye, Roger Horrocks – author of a best-selling biography of Lye – explores what Lye meant by this, and how his own work in sculpture and film bore it out. 

"My book is about an important artist and a big idea, Len Lye’s idea that movement could become the basis for new forms of art. . . He believed that only a few of the possibilities of movement had so far been tapped. This book aims to explore what the world of art – and the world in general – may have looked like through the eyes of an artist whose passionate interest was ‘the mystery of motion’. – Roger Horrocks
First published in 2009, this is the companion to Horrock's biography of Len Lye, 'Len Lye: A biography'.  It might be compelling, but if you've read the bio, then this is ground already covered.  It goes through, at an art overs' level shifts in the focus from Lye's life to his art practice and innovative aesthetic theories about "the art of motion," which continue to be relevant today, especially if you are an animator or public artist.  And on that, the ownership by the public of Lye's work is something Horrocks finally gets to talk about, at least a little.  in the bio, this is neglected.  But here the on-going challenges of restoration, curation and even building a gallery to house his work is explored in ways that Lye, himself never contemplated.  Sure Horrocks goes beyond general introductions to Lye and his artistic importance, but it's all an abridgement of the bio, and his other work 'Zizz' (which is a work from Lye's own words).   Again, its thoroughly researched and fully illustrated.  But the best bit is the unique set of DVDs, featuring Lye's films, kinetic sculptures, and interviews with the artist himself.  Various notes on the web confirm that finding all these on youtube, etc would be a real challenge, so the chance to have them all together is worth the cover price alone.  The DVD has four films where the artist painted on, or scratched into 35mm film. The celluloid is transformed into vibrant, dynamic and compelling art works, featuring stuff like the very neat "Swinging the Lambeth Walk', a dated but in tune 'Trade Tatoo' and 'Color Cry', made in America at a time when this kind of film only came from Europe. His 1958 film 'Free Radicals' makes the travel to DVD really well with the and the frenetic scratched lines still dancing chaotically through a field of dense blackness as originally intended. The film was the work of a highly wired kinetic artist responding to the music (in this case the North African Bagirmi tribe) with the sensibilities of a hip New York jazz musician and an abstract expressionist painter.    There's also a great collection of shorts on some of Lye's greatest sculptures but the best bit is a short film made by Horrocks himself, produced by Shirley Horrocks, which uses Lye's quotes to walk through all his major life moments and works - the greatest introduction and the final word (or words) on the subject. 

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