The Kinetic Films of Len Lye
In conjunction with the closing weekend of Drawing Surrealism, LACMA will showcase the colorful, trailblazing films of New Zealand’s Len Lye. A pioneer of abstract animation, Lye was one of the first filmmakers to treat film itself as a pliable medium. For most of his landmark films, Lye largely bypasses the camera apparatus and instead paints, scratches, and stencils directly onto stock. Born at the turn of the century in Christchurch, the span of Lye’s body of work is nearly as great as the terrain he covered over his seventy-eight years of life. A formidable nomad, Lye passed through the South Pacific Islands and Australia—where he immersed himself in Polynesian cultures—before stowing away to London, where he first made his name, and eventually to New York, where he became a fellow traveler of the American avant-garde. Along the way, Lye’s associations—Robert Flaherty, Dylan Thomas, Sergei Eisenstein, Joan Miró, Stan Vaderbeek, John Cage, Alfred Hitchcock, Hans Richter, and Merce Cunningham to name a few—were as disparate as his creative output was prodigious: in addition to films, he experimented with poetry, drawings, paintings, and sculpture.
This program will offer highlights from Lye’s entire oeuvre, from the film that brought him to the attention of John Grierson in London—the cel-animated fable Tusalava, inspired by Australian Aboriginal art and folklore—to the masterpieces that Lye created for Grierson’s General Post Office Film Unit—such as Colour Box and Rainbow Dance—through to Lye’s American films including his landmark Free Radicals—composed entirely from scratched black leader—and the posthumously completed Tal Farlow.
Works to be screened:
Tusalavala 1929/b&w/7 min.
A Colour Box 1935/color/4 min.
Swinging the Lambeth Walk 1939/color/4 min.
Trade Tattoo 1937/color/6 min.
Colour Flight 1938/color/4 min.
Rainbow Dance 1936/color/5 min.
Life’s Musical Minute 1953/color/2 min./16mm
[Station] Prime Time 1958/b&w/1 min./16mm
Color Cry 1952/color/4 min./16mm
Free Radicals 1958/b&w/5 min./16mm
All Souls Carnival 1957/color/12 min./16mm
Tal Farlow 1980/b&w/3 min./16mm
Particles in Space 1957/b&w/5 min./16mm
All films courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation from material preserved and made available by the New Zealand Film Archive Nga Kaitiaki O Nga Taonga Whitiahua except for:
All Souls Carnival preserved and made available by the New Zealand Film Archive and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
A Colour Box with the kind permission of The British Postal Museum and Archive from material preserved by the BFI National Film Archive made available by the New Zealand Film Archive
Bing Theater | Free admission | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or reserve online.
Image: Frame enlargement from Trade Tattoo, 1937, courtesy of the New Zealand Film Archive Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua, the Len Lye Foundation, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.