From: Crocker Art Museum Limited Edition: 12 Exhibition: Dark Metropolis: Irving Norman's Social Surrealism Material: Printed vinyl Dimensions: 35" x 72" (88cm x 182cm)
Hanging Hardware Included
Art can be beautiful. Art can send powerful messages about society's ills. Art that manages to do both is rare. But, such is the work of Irving Norman, as evidenced in his 1980 painting "To Have and Have Not (Charity Gala)" seen on 12 banners from the exhibition "Dark Metropolis: The Social Surrealism of Irving Norman" at the Crocker Art Museum.
A Realist when the Abstract Expressionists began to rule the art world in the 1950s, Irving Norman (born Isaac Noachowitz), the Lithuanian-born, California-based artist who would've been 100 last year (1906 - 1989), never gained the stature that his vision and talent merited. Add to this his biting, overtly political commentary on 20th century American life, capitalism, and society, and you have the perfect package for a marginalized, black-listed artist who was more often the subject of FBI surveillance than museum exhibitions.
A Jewish immigrant who left Lithuania in 1923, Norman knew well the horrors of war. He had experienced World War I first hand as a child, and then again as a volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in 1938. The Brigade, organized by Communist International, was made up of some 40,000 international volunteers (about 2,600 of them American) who followed their conscience and put their lives on the line to fight in Spain's Civil War to fend off General Franco's fascist regime. Norman's idealism, action against injustice, and early experiences influenced his exploration of the darkest aspects of human nature. As Norman himself said, "I try to go beyond illusions to tell the truth. That doesn't always make me popular."
To promote its exhibition, Dark Metropolis: Irving Norman's Social Surrealism, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento created banners featuring Norman's 1980 work, To Have and Have Not (Charity Gala). The painting is a chilling indictment of the divide between high society's ersatz charity work to help the poor and any actual contact with those who are suffering. Taking center stage on the catwalk is a fur-clad model, nose in the air, gliding past a row of stiff and dour socialites. In their vibrant colorful world, they no doubt feel that by attending such a charity event they are doing their part to help those less fortunate. Norman makes a pointed statement to the contrary - their "do-gooding" is empty and facile. They have no compassion for or understanding of those less-fortunate, depicted by Norman as a throbbing mass of gaunt souls crammed onto the canvas in gloomy darkness. At the bottom of the banner is the exhibition name "Dark Metropolis" and dates "September 23 - January 7". Both sides of this banners are identical.
These banners were displayed around Sacramento from September 23, 2006 - January 7, 2007 to promote the exhibition, Dark Metropolis: Irving Norman's Social Surrealism at the Crocker Art Museum. The exhibition was also seen at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.