Norman Zammitt: The Progression of Color

March 19, 2020 – February 28, 2023
Palm Desert, CA


This exclusive online exhibition features the renowned band paintings by Norman Zammitt pulled from our collection.

Zammitt created these paintings through precise mathematical formulas that helped him in sequencing the color orders. He even turned to academics at the California Institute of Technology who assisted in graphing his color progression. He also consulted them on topics including the growth rates of organic materials, which would serve as a basis in deciding the color order and band widths. This attention to math and nature underpins the relationships between the colors on the canvas and between color and viewer.

The end results are paintings of incredible beauty and depth. There is a feeling of something organic developing in front of the viewer. Zammitt was raised on a Mohawk reservation which may have influenced his color sense. Moreover, the colors seem to relate to the landscape of his home in California – a sunset, the mountains, blue open skies. As Carol Eliel, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, notes “Norman Zammitt translated the light and landscape of California to paint.” This combination of mathematical organization and nature coalesce on the painting’s surface into a visual field of deep dimensionality.

Central to the exhibition is “North Wall” in which Zammitt charted the color progression through parabolic graphs. This inclination produces brilliant visual vibrations between the bands of color, like a desert sunset. Contrast this with “East Wall” which seems to open up like the morning sky.

Norman Zammitt was born in 1931 in Toronto, Canada. He lived for many years on the Caughnawaga Reservation which played a role in the development of his visual language and use of color. Although Canadian by birth, Zammitt became a pioneer of art in Southern California, first studying at Otis College of Art and Design along with fellow student John Baldessari. Zammitt proved pivotal to the Light and Space movement which included Larry Bell, John McCracken, and James Turrell as well as the burgeoning hard edge Minimalism movement in paintings.