Friday, December 11, 2015


Towards the top of the new Whitney Museum is a themed section of the permanent collection titled Free Radicals after the eponymous Len Lye film. The Lye work, famously scratched into black leader film, was of course on the programme. While Lye's title from the spurt of high energy expressed by uncharged molecules captured something of the spirit of fellow film makers Helen Levitt, Robert Breer and Mary Ellen Bute (among others), it sure didn’t sit well with the very staid paintings by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe or George Bellows that hung nearby.

And if you want to know more about Lye, now is the perfect time. Roger Horrocks' definitive biography (out of print for 13 years) has just been revised and reprinted. Considering that Lye was brought up in a lighthouse, thrown out of Samoa for ‘going native’ and sailed to the UK under a false name with another man’s papers, it's incredible that there isn’t already a movie based on his early life (although in all fairness there was an opera). You can get a copy of the Horrocks book here at AUP.

Images: left, Len Lye's film Free radicals on exhibition at the Whitney Museum and right the long awaited reprint of Horrock's Len Lye biography