UMASS

UMASS

Norman Ives: Constructions and Reconstructions

September 7 – October 23, 2021

Untitled, 1963, canvas on canvas, 12 x 19 feet (mural commissioned by Paul Rudolph) © Norman S. Ives Foundation

Reception: Thursday, September 23, 5–7 PM
Discussion of Norman Ives’s work with John T. Hill, exhibition curator at 5:30PM

The College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMass Dartmouth is proud to present Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions, a major exhibition of his work as artist and designer. Ives’s abstract typographic art works, innovative posters and brochures plus his elegant symbol designs inspired generations of designers and artists.

The exhibition presents examples of Ives’s work beginning in 1951 until his death in 1978. Some of his early works are shown for the first time including a print of a Victorian house composed by hand stamping large 19th century wood fonts, and a stunning woodcut portrait of his classmate Sheilagh Coulter, printed on Japanese Kozo paper.

Sheilagh Coulter, 1952, woodcut on mullberry paper, 16 x 11 5/8 inches © Norman S. Ives Foundation

In 1967 Ives’s eight-foot square painting, Number 3-L, was selected for the 1967 Whitney Annual Exhibition of American Artists. That same year, the Museum of Modern Art mounted an exhibition titled 3 graphic designers featuring the work of Norman Ives, Massimo Vignelli and Almir Mavignier.

His paintings and collages are collected by major museums such as the Guggenheim Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery. Ives had numerous exhibitions that included the Chicago Art Institute, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Boston, and the Neuberger Gallery at SUNY Purchase.

Norman Ives’s success as artist and graphic designer secures his place in the history of the American Mid-Century Modern movement. He was one of a group of artists using letterforms as art. Type-related art is now universally accepted in painting, sculpture, and other massive architectural “type works.”

Centaur, 1973, screen print, 17 3/4 x 17 3/4 inches © Norman S. Ives Foundation

The exhibition, on view from September 7 through October 23 at UMass Dartmouth CVPA Campus Gallery, captures Ives’s spirit and brilliance. It is curated by John T. Hill, author and designer. Hill was Ives’s student and faculty colleague. They were part of Yale University’s Department of Graphic Design led by Alvin Eisenman. It was his orchestration of a stellar faculty that led to reshaping the field of commercial art into a more demanding profession, graphic design. The first comprehensive account of Ives’s work, Norman Ives: Constructions and Reconstructions, was the book produced by Hill in 2020.

“Ives was a pioneer in using type and letterforms as primary subjects for his designs,” noted renowned author and designer Steven Heller. “This is the work of a modern master. Ives’s work was continually evolving as he created paintings, collages, prints, bas-reliefs and murals. His symbols communicate with nuance and the clear ideas needed to reach a wide audience. His innovations revolutionized the field of graphic design.”

In the history of art and design, there are many examples of works that rise to the level called timeless: Corinthian helmets, Greek sculpture, Kurt Schwitters’s collages, and the work of Josef Albers. Ives’s work defines a period that was a high point in the teaching and practice of graphic design. This exhibition delineates Ives’s passion for letterforms—which became “his lyrical strokes, their construction and reconstruction defining his work.”