Len Lye: A Biography

Roger Horrocks

‘In this first biography of Lye, Horrocks uses his considerable skills to create a consistently searching study and informative portrait of this remarkable artist and his exuberant engagements not only with painting, woodcuts, poetry, critical writing and thought, but also pioneering work with film, photography and sculpture. . . . This is indeed an exemplary study wholly in tune with its subject.’
– Cassandra Fusco, Craft Arts International

First published to acclaim in 2001, this classic biography is now back in print – as the art and life of Len Lye continue to fascinate readers in New Zealand and around the world.

Len Lye: A Biography tells the story of an extraordinary New Zealander – a brilliant artist with an international career who never lost the informality, the energy and the independence of spirit of his South Pacific origins. Lye (1901–80) was a charismatic artist of enormous talent who became a leading figure in international modernism. He was a gifted innovator in many areas of the arts – film, painting, sculpture, photography and writing. Horrocks’ exhaustive study of Lye was the result of twenty years of research and is based on interviews with many of those close to the artist, as well as on voluminous documentary sources. At the same time, Lye’s colourful personality and dramatic life make this a page-turner. It places Lye, unquestionably, alongside Mansfield and Hodgkins as a great New Zealand expatriate artist. Generous illustrations give striking examples of Lye’s art and a vivid sense of the man and his world.

This 2015 reprint includes a new chapter on Lye’s remarkable posthumous career, which has included both controversy and triumph.



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Professor Emeritus Roger Horrocks is a writer, film-maker, magazine editor, and influential teacher, the founder of the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at the University of Auckland. An expert on the life and work of Len Lye, Horrocks has written books and curated exhibitions of Lye’s work, directed a film about Lye and wrote the libretto for Len Lye: The Opera.


December 2015, 240 x 180 mm, 508 pages, Colour and b+w illustrations
Paperback with flaps, ISBN 9781869402471, $59.99