Critics’ Picks

View of “Points of Contact: Jim Allen, Len Lye, Hélio Oiticica,” 2011. Foreground: Jim Allen, Small Worlds, 1969/2010. Background: Jim Allen, Thine Own Hands, Homage to Hone Tuwhare, 1969/2010.

View of “Points of Contact: Jim Allen, Len Lye, Hélio Oiticica,” 2011. Foreground: Jim Allen, Small Worlds, 1969/2010. Background: Jim Allen, Thine Own Hands, Homage to Hone Tuwhare, 1969/2010.

Wellington

“Points of Contact: Jim Allen, Len Lye, Hélio Oiticica”

Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade Victoria University of Wellington
March 19–May 22, 2011

This exhibition examines the connections that can be made between works by Jim Allen, one of the most prominent performance and installation artists based in New Zealand, and two of his influences: the Kiwi expatriate experimental filmmaker and sculptor Len Lye and the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica. Curated by Mercedes Vicente and Tyler Cann, the show presents a focused and careful selection of work by these three artists that engages with artificial light, color, and movement. Lye explores the relation between light kinetics and sound: The sculpture titled Grass, 1961–65, consists of thin steel rods that sway slowly and respond to visitors’ movements, yielding dancing light beams and harmonic sound waves. A few parangolés made by Oiticica in 1968 also invite participants to partake in sensorial experiences. Shown for the first time in New Zealand, these three-dimensional colorful capes highlight a key early approach to performance with groups or crowds of people.

Documentation from a 2010 reenactment of Allen’s seminal tripartite work Contact, 1974, is also on view. At the core of the three performances—Computer Dance, Parangole Capes, and Body Articulation/Imprint—that constitute this piece are the interactions of a group of alienated people trying to “make contact.” In Computer Dance, masked performers struggle to establish communication with one another amid flashing lights and intermittent sounds. Parangole Capes and Body Articulation/Imprint clearly pick up on Oiticica’s aesthetic and ideas by exploring how the embodiment of color can stimulate the senses and promote interactivity.

Also reconstructed here is Allen’s Small Worlds, 1969/2010, a large-scale cube made of thick nylon that stands adjacent to Thine Own Hands, Homage to Hone Tuwhare, 1969/2010, which comprises hanging white paper strips with poems by Maori poet Tuwhare. Lit with black light, the illuminated poems create, as in Lye’s works, beautiful and poetic optical effects. In addition to subtle and compelling links between works on view, “Points of Contact” creates an exhilarating experience of playful spontaneity and the expansion of the senses.