Steven Heller wrote two articles about Norman Ives for Print Magazine. Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Design / Designer as Entrepreneur program, and writes frequently for EYE and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 190 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal, is in the Art Directors Hall of Fame and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award. He has referred to Ives as a “Modern Master.”
Norman Ives has an historic place in the American Mid-Century Modern canon as a member of a crew that used typefaces as art. It was not until after his passing in 1978 that I became aware that his work contributed to placing the Yale School of Art—a modern design hot-house under Josef Albers—on the map.
Ives’ design and art appeared to be an outlier of the percolating type-as-art movement that may have been popularized by Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures, but has since become ubiquitous not just in painting and sculpture but other massive architectural “type works.” Ives’ work fits squarely into this genre that has roots in the early 20th-century Modern movement. I feel fortunate to have had an opportunity to become absorbed in his work through an as-yet-unpublished book: Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions by John T. Hill. Ives has been examined before, but not with the same intensity as many of his peers and followers. Hill has done his job well. I asked him to explain his interest in this relatively forgotten yet no less significant Modern master.
Norman Seaton Ives (1923-1978 ) started as a faculty member at Yale in 1952, was a professor of graphic design at the Yale School of Art in 1974, and died at age 54. He was active in book and magazine design, and in 1958 went into partnership with Sewell Stillman to publish portfolios of work by Walker Evans, Ad Reinhardt, Herbert Matter and others. He also designed two major publications by Josef Albers: Interaction of Color in 1963 and Formulation: Articulation in 1972
He showed at the AIGA Gallery in 2007. His last major museum show was in 1977 at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, NY. Earlier museum shows were held at the University of Kansas at Topeka, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the University of Hawaii. He was also represented in a group show, “The Art of the Poster,” at the Museum of Modern Art.
Although active under the Mid-Modernist umbrella, he was lesser known than his colleagues and peers.
This year Ives’ design and abstract art will be on view at “Constructions and Reconstructions,” a retrospective of his work. It opens Nov. 18 in the University and Bevier Galleries at the Rochester Institute of Technology, sponsored by the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. Curated by John T. Hill, a panel discussion, including design historian R. Roger Remington, on “Legacy and Influence,” will accompany the opening and reception.
Alliance Graphique Internationale | March 2020
The March 2020 AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale) newsletter featured the upcoming book, “Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions,” an overview of AGI member Norman Ives’s’ personal work, his graphic design, teaching and publishing. AGI is a member-based organization of the world’s leading graphic artists and designers. There are more than 500 members from 43 countries.