Ives first inclination towards the arts is demonstrated in a few watercolors painted before any formal training. At Wesleyan University and at Yale University School of Art, Ives made paintings. At the same time he was equally fascinated with making prints in all the traditional media. While his early paintings often used literal subjects, he soon took up letter forms as a focus.
Eventually it was clear that painting was only one of many methods to satisfy
his wide ranging visual interests. Often the same composition was rendered as a painting and as a screen print. One remarkable example is a major work titled Reversed Grounds. This composition was twice painted in distinctly differing styles, made as a screen print and a bas-relief.
A number of his “paintings” are made by painting a sheet of canvas one solid color, followed by his cutting letter forms from this canvas and gluing these figures onto a stretched canvas. It could be identified as either a collage or painting.
Ives’s versatility allowed a fluid movement between media that seemed graceful and effortless. He painted with a liberated mind and with limitless imagination, confronting traditions, and exploring potential to discover new configurations with each work.
Norman Ives produced a body of work that, in its dynamic invention and re-invention, makes him truly a modern master.