As artist Len Lye’s legend grows both internationally and domestically, a new book of critical essays shines light on the life, career and art of the outstanding New Zealand-born artist.
The Long Dream of Waking: New Perspectives on Len Lye, edited by Paul Brobbel, Wystan Curnow and Roger Horrocks, shows Lye as one of the twentieth century’s most original artists.
The comprehensive new book, with writing from an international panel of authors, includes essays by scholars, artists, curators and engineers who had significant working relationships with Lye and further opens up new territory on Lye’s diverse field of work.
Lye (1901–1980) was a New Zealander practising in London during the inter-war years, and then a key figure in the post-war New York avant-garde art scene. In The Long Dream of Waking, readers will gain insight into an artist whom the country is increasingly embracing – helped in no small part by the opening of the Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth in 2015.
Co-editor Paul Brobbel, Len Lye Curator at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, says Lye’s international stature continues to expand and interest in his work ranges across cinema, animation, sculpture and photography to music and philosophy and the technicalities behind his practice.
“This book acknowledges increasing awareness of Lye, placing him in both international and domestic contexts,” he says.
“The writers we’ve worked with broaden and fill out our vision of Lye, showing his influence on the art world was not just a curiosity. He was not just an outlier in this larger world, but instead a very serious part of it.
“One author puts him very firmly in Sydney, the next places him in London into inter-war British culture and we are so excited to bring these perspectives together.
“We explore his present currency in the international world, and there has been a lot of speculation within New Zealand as to what his reputation is so we try to answer the long-vexed question: ‘What does the world make of Len Lye?’.”
Mr Brobbel says the book will be the most substantial collection of texts and research on Lye for some time.
The Long Dream of Waking showcases research undertaken with the Len Lye Centre’s collection and coincides with the current Christchurch Art Gallery’s exhibition Stopped Short by Wonder.
“Working with Canterbury University Press has been important to us because of the historical relationship between the University’s engineering department and the Len Lye Foundation, enabling our experience of many of Lye’s artworks,” says Mr Brobbel.
Canterbury University Press Publisher Catherine Montgomery says any reader interested in the visual arts will find this a stimulating, attractive book thanks to its variety of authors and range of strong images, some of which are published here for the first time.
“Readers interested in modernism, cinema, sculpture, surrealism, music and art history have an opportunity to discover the latest global perspectives on New Zealand’s most internationally acclaimed artist,” she says.
About the editors
Paul Brobbel is the Len Lye Curator at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, and former Assistant Collection Manager (Photography) at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.
Wystan Curnow is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Auckland. He is an art critic, poet, curator and editor. He coedited Figures of Motion: Len Lye’s Selected Writings (with Roger Horrocks, 1984) and Len Lye (with Tyler Cann, 2009).
Roger Horrocks is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Auckland. He worked as Len Lye’s assistant during the last year of his life, and became his biographer (Len Lye: A Biography, 2001). His other works on Lye include Art that Moves (2009).
The Long Dream of Waking: New Perspectives on Len Lye, edited by Paul Brobbel, Wystan Curnow and Roger Horrocks, published by Canterbury University Press, November 2017, RRP $49.99, ISBN: 978-1-927145-96-8
- University of Canterbury