Len Lye

American, born New Zealand, 1901-1980


Len Lye (American, born New Zealand, 1904–1980). Grass, 1965. Stainless steel and wood, motorized and programmed, 36 x 35 5/8 x 8 1/2 inches (91.4 x 90.5 x 21.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Howard Wise Gallery, 1965 (RCA1965:2). © 1965 The Len Lye Foundation

© The Len Lye Foundation

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Grass, 1965

Artwork Details


stainless steel, wood, and programmed motor


overall (including base): 36 x 35 5/8 x 8 1/2 inches (91.44 x 90.49 x 21.59 cm)

Collection Buffalo AKG Art Museum


Gift of Howard Wise Gallery, 1965

Accession ID


In the late 1920s, Len Lye began making experimental films, which formed the basis of his principle preoccupation: movement. Unable to afford a camera, he painted directly on celluloid film stock to create flickering images. After visiting New York in 1944, Lye relocated to the city, and in the late 1950s he began to explore kinetic sculpture fully. He initially described his work as “Tangible Motion Sculptures”—a term he employed to set his work apart from the gently moving mobiles made popular by Alexander Calder. When in motion, this calming work is reminiscent of beach grass swaying in the breeze along the shoreline of Lye’s native New Zealand. However, “Grass came about without any preconceived ideas about its imagery,” the artist explained. “It came from watching a single rod swaying and then doubling up to emphasize the accelerating stroke of its oscillation. It was the ‘lurch’ part of the sway that I liked. It should be timed to slow music . . . I prefer something in similar tempo in the Satie style.”

Label from Giant Steps: Artists and the 1960s, June 30–December 30, 2018