Len Lye Exhibit in Birmingham

Len Lye

Only two more weeks to catch the Len Lye exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England. The exhibit, “Len Lye: The Body Electric,” is the first retrospective exhibition in the UK of work by pioneering New Zealand experimental animator Len Lye (1901—1980). The exhibit includes examples of his groundbreaking experimental animated films, as well as sculptures, paintings, and drawings. From the Ikon website:

Lye travelled in the South Pacific as a young man, living for extended periods in Samoa and Australia, before sailing for London in 1926. There he settled into an artistic community that included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Christopher Wood. During the 1930s Lye’s main interest lay in film-making and he was commissioned by the visionary film unit of the General Post Office to make a number of commercials, now seen as seminal in the history of moving imagery.

Lye’s distinct style and experimental technique of ‘direct’ film-making saw him paint colour directly onto celluloid film. Several of these films are exhibited at Ikon including A Colour Box (1935) and Rainbow Dance (1936), plus Lye’s more avant-garde films such as Free Radicals (1958), made after his move to New York.

In the late 1950s Lye began making kinetic sculpture which he referred to as ‘tangible motion sculptures’ or ‘Tangibles’. These works embodied the same spirit as his films and reiterated his belief that motion and physical empathy were even more fundamental than medium.

Admission to the Ikon Gallery is FREE. The Len Lye exhibit closes on February 13.

And now for a treat, Len Lye’s Trade Tattoo from 1937:


  • Martyn

    Mesmerizing.

    • amid

      Thanks, Martyn. Updated the post.

  • Frank

    Lye’s “Rainbow Dance” is pure genius. Lye did not always just paint on film but used optical printing in innovative, groundbreaking ways. His abstractions do not forget to entertain.