The lengthy article provides an overview of the exhibition at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in Connecticut and includes insights about Ives and his work from John T. Hill, author, exhibition curator, and great friend of Norman Ives. The museum was quoted as saying, “His abstract typographic art works, innovative posters, and brochures, along with his elegant symbol designs, inspired generations of designers and artists,”
Also, Tanya Pohrt, curator at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, says that Ives is “someone who had an important role as a teacher, as an artist, designer, and a publisher, but I think because his work was spread between these different areas … and because he was not someone who was pushing his own fame or agenda, the work hasn’t been that well known. But it’s really sort of striking, beautiful, very fresh and engaging work that helps us better understand some of the ideas and the themes that were of interest to artists in this mid-century time period. I’m thinking about the influence of Josef Albers, how Ives’s work is distinct from (Albers’) in many ways but how ideas can filter through teachers and students and just the complexity of art. A place like the Lyman Allyn is great for being able to dig into the lives and careers and work of figures who maybe haven’t received enough recognition, and I think Ives is one of them.”
Through the lens of Norman Ives ART ’52, letterforms possess timeless lyricism. They were his lyrical strokes, to be constructed and deconstructed as he pleased. The exhibit “Norman Ives: Constructions and Reconstructions” was curated with a vision: to convince the world why Norman Ives should not fall through the cracks of history.
The exhibition is on display at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut from Jan. 29 to Apr. 24. It features paintings, collages, prints, bas-reliefs and murals created by Ives, a former Yale School of Art professor and alumnus, and is curated by John Hill ART ’60. The exhibition is the namesake of a book published in November 2020 and made up of work from the Norman Ives Foundation.
Letterforms and type were a lifelong fascination for Norman Ives, an American artist, designer, teacher and publisher whose work traversed the boundaries between mid-century-modern abstract painting and graphic design. His work — a stunning range of paintings, collages, prints, posters, logos, murals and bas-reliefs — can be seen in the “Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions” show at the Lyman Allyn Museum from Jan. 29 through April 24.
Tanya Pohrt, a curator at the museum, told CT Examiner that Ives often created a letterform pattern and then carried it through in a number of pieces, changing the colors, scale and media, sometimes using grids. “He was literally a genius and he had the capacity to cover so many of these things,” said John Hill, curator of the Lyman Allyn exhibit and author of the monograph “Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions.” “I think the work is timeless. I think it looks fresh today to me, as it did what it was made. Obviously, he was a master of form and was so gifted at making symbols and logos that had a great formal sophistication, as well as designing books, posters and murals,” Hill said.
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut, will present Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions, a large-scale exhibition, opening on Saturday, Jan. 29. The exhibition explores the range and evolution of Norman Ives’s work and features examples of his paintings, collages, screen prints, bas-reliefs, murals, and graphic design. The exhibition will be on view through April 24.
An innovative artist and graphic designer, Norman Ives (American, 1923 – 1978) pioneered the use of type and letterforms as primary subjects for his work designs. He was a student of Josef Albers and taught at Yale University School of Art from 1952 until his death in 1978. Ives experienced success through a multifaceted career as an artist, designer, publisher, and teacher. His mastery of form is seen in his personal work and designs.
“We are excited to include this major exhibition of Ives’s work in our schedule this year,” said Museum Director Sam Quigley. “It represents our ongoing efforts to explore a broader range of art, including Connecticut artists.”
On September 14, 2021, the Boston Globe covered the Norman Ives exhibit at UMass Dartmouth Gallery in an article with examples of the visuals presented in the exhibit. The article starts with a quote from Norman Ives who once said, “Seeing is more convincing than reading.”
The artist is the subject of “Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions,” which is curated by John T. Hill, the author of a book by the same name. The exhibit was held at the CVPA Campus Gallery at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The article also provides a short background on Ives, who was a first-year graduate student at Yale and who had worked with Josef Albers, the force behind revolutionizing the university’s art department. Ives developed a fascination with the “tension” between letters and images, opting to use this in many of his designs. As the article noted, “His method was simple, reassembling letterforms on grids, swapping their context from reading to seeing, from the left-to-right on a page to the more holistic picture plane.”
Ives also understand how powerful symbols could be, referring to them in his book, “8 Symbols,” where he discusses the thought process behind eight of his logo designs and addresses the impact of letterforms.
The Norman Ives exhibition at the CVPA Campus Gallery, UMass Dartmouth, was listed as one of the top art exhibits during 2021. The article noted, “The comprehensive survey of the influential mid-century graphic designer Norman Ives was a playful and dazzling celebration of letterforms and negative space. Whether working in collage, bas relief, or with paint, Ives was a choreographer of the elements of text. A superb example was the three-color serigraph called “Centaur” in which the letters do not, in any way, spell the word centaur. But the magic is the mingling of the forms.”
Eye on Design AIGA has published an exceptional article entitled “The Overlooked Career of Mid-Century Designer, Artist, and Teacher Norman Ives. With words by Theo Inglis, the monograph brings the designer’s work across graphic design, painting, collage, and teaching to a new audience. The complete article is available here:
“Ives’s versatility revealed itself in a life of experimentation in different fields and media. Revered as a teacher, he also designed corporate logos, book jackets, posters, museum catalogues, postage stamps, and public murals. His private work included prints, paintings, collages, bas reliefs, and free-standing sculpture. In true Bauhaus spirit, he considered his graphic work and fine art indistinguishable in terms of overall merit.”
Charles T. Clark has been writing about Connecticut art, architecture, and culture since 1978. He last wrote “Stonington: James Merrill’s House,” Summer 2016.
Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions is written by author and graphic designer John T. Hill. According to the article by Megan Williams, “Ives was known for creating striking compositions out of fragmented letterforms and abstract formations that straddled the worlds of graphic design and fine art.”
The magazine Homes & Interiors Scotland recently featured an article on Norman Ives, shedding light on his remarkable contributions as a fine artist, graphic designer, teacher and publisher.
Steven Heller wrote three 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: Constructions & Reconstructions by John T. Hill is a chronicle of the spirit and genius of a master artist and accomplished graphic designer. This book introduces rarely seen treasures, showcasing the brilliant variety and vitality of his work.
Ives’ work anticipates the type-as-art movement popularized by Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures. Type-related art has since become ubiquitous in painting and sculpture, as well as other massive architectural “type works.” Ives’ work fits squarely into this genre, and has roots in the early 20th-century Modern movement.
Steven 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.
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.
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.