15 Dec 2015
The new suite of exhibitions opening at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre includes the first large-scale collection of art work by Sister Corita Kent shown in New Zealand and Australia.
Through colourful banners and posters Sister Corita Kent (1918-1986) spread messages of joy, faith, love, the power of God, and protested against the political crises of her day.
Corita was a Catholic nun, artist and teacher at the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles. Heading the art department there in the 1960s she harnessed the energy of her students to help her produce some of the most vibrant and inventive print work of the day, using silk screen technique.
Curated by Simon Rees, nearly 100 screen-prints will be shown in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery exhibition from 18 December to 3 April.
Sister Corita’s Summer of Love is one of a growing number of exhibitions, internationally, that celebrate Corita Kent as an under-discovered heroine of the Pop art moment.
A reconfigured exhibition including new and different support works, curated by Robert Leonard, will open at City Gallery Wellington, from 23 July to 6 November 2016.
Empowered by the Second Vatican Council (1962), Sister Corita’s work borrowed magpie-like from signs and slogans, billboards, popular song lyrics, product packaging and magazine advertising. Many of her artworks are text-based, using pop culture as raw material and incorporating high-colour messages of peace, spirituality and her commitment to social justice.
Her images remain symbols that address the larger questions and concerns of that turbulent time including the civil rights movement, the wars in Indo-China and South-East Asia and the assassinations of America’s political leaders.
Govett-Brewster Director and Exhibition Curator Simon Rees says Sister Corita’s work is always colourful, always touching and more often than not, humourous.
“Like the best of preachers and political orators, her art works and their messages can touch everybody,” says Simon Rees.
Simon Rees first encountered Sister Corita’s work when visiting artists’ studios in the US and was impressed to find out more about the maker of these images, who was so inspirational to other artists. In doing so he curated his first exhibition of Sister Kent’s work in Europe in 2010. He considers Sister Corita’s letter E [eye love] one of the greatest art works of the 20th century.
“Even though Sister Corita made some of the most critical and enriching art works of the 1960s and 1970s in a pop-style as powerful and communicative as that of Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, her work has been slow coming to international recognition,” he says.
The exhibition frames Sister Corita’s work from a regional perspective by presenting a selection of works from the Govett-Brewster Collection by Colin McCahon, supported by two films about Sister Corita: Mary’s Day (1964) directed by Bayliss Glascock a recent acquisition for the Govett-Brewster Collection; and Alleluia: The life and art of Corita Kent: the ‘60s (1967) directed by Thomas Conrad.
The exhibition is further extended by loans from the Auckland Art Gallery Collection by Ed Ruscha (US) and Marco Fusinato (AU) – alongside a pocket exhibition of graphic works by the Wellington Media Collective, adding an important New Zealand and political ambit to the project.
Through 1978 to 1998, the Wellington Media Collective was a group of young designers, writers, and political activists who shared their skills and expertise for those needing to get a message out. Dubbed ‘design with a cause’, the Wellington Media Collective offers a wonderful New Zealand inflection to the messages within the work of Sister Corita.
In the Len Lye Centre the exhibition Len Lye: Flora and Fauna takes visitors on a journey through the natural world at the heart of Lye’s practice – the blueprint for his sensual and rhythmic art. Looking beyond the stainless steel sheen of his kinetic sculpture and the technical wizardry of his filmmaking, this exhibition explores the natural rhythms and imagery that inspired him. Len Lye: Flora and Fauna includes the brand-new kinetic sculpture Albatross reconstructed in time for the summer by the Len Lye Foundation.
Shown from 18 December to 3 April, Len Lye: Flora and Fauna is curated by Len Lye Curator Paul Brobbel and Assistant Len Lye Curator Sarah Wall.
Image caption: Sister Corita Kent E eye love 1968. Courtesy of the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles, CA. Photo Arthur Evans.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For any further enquiries please contact Kelly Loney:
M: +275 450 226
About Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is New Zealand’s contemporary art museum in the coastal city of New Plymouth, Taranaki on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since opening in 1970, the Gallery has dedicated itself to innovative programming, focused collection development and audience engagement. It has earned a strong reputation nationally and internationally for its global vision and special commitment to contemporary art of the Pacific Rim. The Govett-Brewster is also home to the collection and archive of the seminal modernist filmmaker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye (1901–1980).
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery was founded with a gift to the city of New Plymouth, from one of its greatest ‘Friends’ Monica Brewster (née Govett). A globetrotter before the age of air travel, Monica Brewster envisaged an art museum for her hometown that would be an international beacon for the art and ideas of the current day – the sort she had become familiar with on her global travels.
The Govett-Brewster continues in the legacy of Monica Brewster by taking on and presenting the most provocative, audacious and confident works of art in the global arts landscape.
The greatly expanded museum re-launched on 25 July 2015 with the addition of the Len Lye Centre. With its curved exterior walls of mirror-like stainless steel, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre is the country’s first example of destination architecture linked to contemporary art.
This latest addition to the Govett-Brewster – the Len Lye Centre – is New Zealand’s first institution dedicated to a single artist, the pioneering filmmaker and kinetic sculptor, Len Lye.
In 1964 Len Lye said “Great architecture goes fifty-fifty with great art”.
The Len Lye Centre building, adjoining the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, is an example of innovative thinking in both engineering and architecture. The architects are Patterson Associates, one of New Zealand’s most internationally recognised architectural firms.
The new Len Lye Centre features Lye’s work in kinetic sculpture, film, painting, drawing, photography, batik and writing, as well as related work by contemporary and historical artists.
It also houses a state-of-the-art 62-seat cinema – a welcoming environment for audiences to experience Len Lye’s films, local and international cinema, arthouse and experimental films, and regular film festival programming.
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery building in New Plymouth closed in April 2013 for earthquake strengthening, compliance, upgrades and construction of the Len Lye Centre.
About Len Lye
A visionary New Zealander, an inspirational artist, a pioneer of film; Len Lye is one of the most important and influential artists to emerge from New Zealand.
Len Lye was an experimental filmmaker, poet, painter, kinetic sculptor and creative visionary ahead of his time. Most of his works were so revolutionary that technology literally had to catch up to him – meaning much of Lye’s work was not realised in his own lifetime.
Lye’s iconic 45-metre kinetic sculpture Wind Wand sways gently on New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway. The Wind Wand that glows red at night, is the first large outdoor sculpture to be built posthumously from his plans and drawings.
In 1977 Lye returned to his homeland to oversee the first New Zealand exhibition of his work at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. He called it the “swingiest art gallery of the antipodes”.
Shortly before his death in 1980, Lye and his supporters established the Len Lye Foundation, to which he gifted his entire collection. His collection was gifted on the condition that a suitable and permanent home be created in which his works could be fully realised.
“Like the best of preachers and political orators, her art works and their messages can touch everybody” - Simon Rees.