The annals of art history are rife with artists of genius who never achieved the repute they deserved during their lifetime. Irving Norman, variously labeled “social surrealist,” “magic realist,” or simply “humanist painter” is among those who have only been celebrated posthumously.
Irving Norman (1906-1989) produced some of the most potent visual indictments of a contemporary world shaped by war, immoral profiteering, and the nightmarish, dehumanizing elements of modern society. His mantra, “to tell the truth of our time,” and his mission to unmask the darker, most nefarious elements of human nature, grew from a belief that art had the power to change people’s behavior. The highly detailed dystopian scenes present a message not of hopelessness, but of motivation to effect change.
Norman had personal experience with trauma due in no small part to his ghastly experiences as an immigrant from Russia-controlled Vilna, Lithuania and on the battlefield during the last year of the Spanish Civil War; those remembrances of war haunted him forever. He volunteered to fight in a foreign land and a war he never expected to return from, a degree of sacrifice — the ultimate sacrifice — and it is at the core of understanding Norman and his art. In a sense, his paintings ask some of the same of us. He lived as the hopeful idealist and drew and painted with a clear agenda — to create works from which a viewer could not turn away, hoping for a humanizing effect that could be carried forth. “Irving Norman: Dark Matter” is the first exhibition of this intense artist at Heather James Fine Art in Palm Desert, California. It marks the start of our representation of the Estate of Irving Norman.