In New York

From 1944 to his death in 1980 Lye was based in New York. His bread-and-butter job was directing for the March of Time series. At “the Club” he mixed with the young painters who became “the New York School,” who viewed his direct films.

He helped to create an experimental film scene in New York, and made some striking new films such as Color Cry and Free Radicals. The latter won a major international award in 1958, but getting his films funded or distributed in the commercial world of films was such a battle that Lye turned his attention to the making of kinetic (motor-driven) steel sculpture. From 1958 on, he did innovative work in this form of sculpture. His art was included in important exhibitions around the world.

His sculptures are closely related to his films -- both are expressions of his lifetime aim of creating a new “art of motion”. Lye’s approach was new because whereas most European kinetic artists were influenced by Constructivism with its emphasis on geometrical forms, Lye’s sculpture tended to be based on the body and on natural forms. Despite its use of metal and motors, it created a strong sense of physical empathy. 

Lye was also a highly original photographer, poet and theorist. He approached each field he tackled from an unusual angle.

Photo Gallery: In New York

Directing a <em>March of Time</em> episode
In his New York apartment, 1946
Lye with his second wife Ann in New York c. 1948
<em>Color Cry</em>, 1952
Lye with <em>Fountain</em>, 1960
<em>Free Radicals</em>, 1958
Lye with <em>Storm King</em>
Testing a <em>Wind Wand</em> in West Village of New York, 1960
Lye with <em>Grass</em>, 1960
Lye on a panel of kinetic sculptors in Berkeley in 1966 - (L to R)George Rickey, Len Lye, Peter Selz, Harry Kramer and Takis
Assembling <em>Fountain I</em>, in his studio, c. 1970
A late photo of Lye with his son Bix