Norman Zammitt: North Wall


North Wall, the mural-scale painting by the late California Light and Space pioneer Norman Zammitt, was exhibited at the Getty Museum in its Pacific Standard Time exhibition tracing the history of art in L.A. from 1945 to 1980. Light and Space is arguably the most important art movement born in Los Angeles. In this piece, completed in 1976, the expanse evokes a sky in its full coastal California drama, although that was not necessarily the artist’s intention. Rather, he might have used these as an approach to the sublime — portal to a mystical realm. Zammitt was raised on the Mohawk [Caughnawaga Indian] reservation near Montreal, and the bands of brilliant color are said to relate to Native Indian sand paintings he saw there.

In North Wall, the colors seem to radiate as they shift from dark bands of black and blue to fiery yellows, oranges and reds.The artist measured the width of each band of color and calculated the exacting progression — not only for aesthetic precision, but also for emotional and spiritual effect. His edges appear seamless — a moment in space frozen in time. Because of their scale, Zammitt’s paintings went largely to institutions, including MoMA, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Hirschhorn Art Museum on the East Coast, and LACMA, the Norton Simon Museum, the Palm Springs Art Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on the West Coast.