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“The path I followed chose me, not me it. I was led to painting by experiencing life, it’s contemplation, and a desperate need to give it expression” – Irving Norman


Painted in 1959, Irving Norman’s The Palace was conceived and created during the last year of the decade when Abstract Expressionism dominated the art world. At the time, two superpowers were engaged in a fully entrenched battle for ideological supremacy, the double helix DNA molecule had recently been discovered, and the cult of McCarthyism and its web of accusations, suspicion and paranoia had finally been wrestled to the ground. Given the timbre of the time, not surprisingly, museum trustees overruled courageous directors when Norman’s paintings were offered as acquisition considerations. Invariably, the work was rejected, euphemistically designated as ‘outside current trends.’ But the deeper truth? Trustees considered the work too confrontational. They worried that donors might frame the work as subversive. Private sales fared no better. Too big, too thought provoking, not decorative. Still, Norman stood tall; he turned, faced the large, empty canvases and designed and painted increasingly complex, densely populated canvases. As for recognition, he rationalized the situation — fame or fortune risked the unsullied nature of an artist’s quest intent upon making the world a better place. To that end, he continually endeavored to pull back the curtain and expose the darker side of the human predicament — the war mongering, the abject corruption, the frantic pleasure seeking, and the dehumanizing effects of modern society – all of it, leavened by his characteristic biting satire. The Palace is a work of that kind of earnest intent; one that stages the dehumanizing effects of urban living, industrialization, and economic disparity.

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    Irving Norman

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Additional Resources

Video clips from the documentary Irving Norman: Truth be Told directed by Raymond Day.


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