David Dye: Devices

13 Oct 2017 – 18 Feb 2018

Exhibition in the Sculpture Study Galleries, Leeds Art Gallery

This archival exhibition showcases the dynamic early work of David Dye, an artist who was at the heart of the radical changes taking place in British sculpture during the 1960s and 70s.

The archive of David Dye (1945-2015), which the artist generously bequeathed to the Henry Moore Institute Archive of Sculptors’ Papers, comprises sketchbooks, drawings, films, presentation boards, photographs, negatives, project files and exhibition catalogues. This exhibition shows how he developed his interests out of sculpture into photography and film.

David Dye: Devices focuses on the dynamic first decade of his career, showing the development of his work from 1967 to 1977. It begins with Dye's time studying sculpture at St Martin’s School of Art, and from here examines the steps he took across media and highlights the concerns that charged his work.

As Dye wrote in an early notebook: ‘I had art history on one shoulder and the history of film on another.’ In this decade the artist used projectors, cameras, screens, mirrors and the human body in a variety of complicated configurations. Dye often referred to his works as ‘devices’ and this archival exhibition takes up this term, highlighting the ways in which he examined relationships between objects and spectators, manipulating their locations and exploring the poetics of projection and perception.

Early drawings for sculptures, photographs of sculptures reproduced in film-like sequences, and presentation boards demonstrate Dye's consistent exploration into relationships between artwork and spectator. His sculpture ‘Distancing Device’ (1970) coordinates the movements of the viewer, while films such as Mirror Films (1972), Towards/Away from (1972) and Blind Spot (1973) control the eye with careful precision.

Dye gained increasing public recognition for his work in the 1970s. Studio International covered his work, and he presented solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (1972), Lisson Gallery (1975) and Robert Self Gallery (1976), as well as participating in group exhibitions including Young Contemporaries (1970), The English Avant-Garde (1971), The New Art (1972), Beyond Painting and Sculpture (1974) and Arte Inglese Oggi (1976). David Dye: Devices includes material related to these exhibitions, showing the contexts in which his work was being interpreted and appreciated in these years.

John Hilliard on his friendship with David Dye

In response to questions from Jon Wood, artist John Hilliard talk about his early friendship with Dye in the 1970s, as well as discussing works shown in David Dye: Devices.

Jon Wood in conversation with David Dye

Following the inclusion of David Dye’s ‘Distancing Device’ (1970) in United Enemies, curated by Jon Wood in 2011, David and Jon wanted to develop things further and during the summer in 2014 they both corresponded by email with each other. Together they discussed David’s attitude to revisiting earlier work, the role of sculpture, materials, mirrors and film in his work from the 1960s and 1970s and the renewed interest in conceptual art in recent years. This conversation, which they then edited and titled ‘Rewind, Fast Forward, Play’, is published here for the first time to mark the opening of David Dye: Devices.

David Dye archive

The Institute's archive contains an extensive collection of David Dye material (collection reference: 2016.1). Two notebooks from this collection have been digitised and are available to view online on Turning the Pages as interactive virtual books.

Black 'Alwych' notebook on early work, c. 1966

Notebook with a small number of rough preparatory sketches similar in style to photographs of Dye's early sculpture found elsewhere in the David Dye Archive.

Launch book

Green 'The Edmond Shorthand Notebook'

Dye used this 400 page notebook to sketch out ideas for works and exhibitions, as well as record observations about the world around him and even draft letters.

Launch book

Venue details

Venue address

Leeds Art Gallery
The Headrow
West Yorkshire
United Kingdom
T: 0113 247 8256
Visit website

Opening times

Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 11am - 3pm

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