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Norman Ives: Constructions & Reconstructions

This first comprehensive account of a mid-century master covers the multi-faceted career of a fine artist, graphic designer, teacher, and publisher. It reflects Norman Ives’s timeless relevance in the visual arts.

Constructions & Reconstructions is an overview of Norman Ives’s multifaceted career. Ives was a gifted artist better known for his graphic design. His talents extended well beyond the field of design. Much of this seamless transi-
tion came from Ives’s mastery of form, common to both endeavors.

Ives’s paintings and collages are collected by major museums: The 1967 Whitney Annual exhibition of American painting, the Guggenheim Museum, Yale University Art Gallery and various others. Norman Ives holds a secure place in the history of American Mid-Century Modern canon as one of a band of artists using letterforms as art. Ives’s design and art appeared to be outliers of the percolating type-as-art movement popularized by Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures. Type-related art has since become ubiquitous in painting and sculpture, as well as other massive architectural “type works.” Ives’s work fits squarely into this genre having roots in the early 20th-century Modern movement.

Ives’s was part of a period representing a high point in the teachings of graphic design. This began with Josef Albers’s restructuring of the Yale University Art School. Ives was both a student of Albers and his teaching colleague, then later, his publisher. Taking Albers’s lead, this curriculum helped reformulate graphic design in its evolution from commercial art. Norman Ives was a member of AGI, along with fellow faculty members Herbert Matter, Armin Hofmann, Paul Rand, and Bradbury Thompson.)

Ives’s recognition in two major fields of the visual arts makes him worthy of being called master, in any period. In the history of art, there are many examples of works that rise to the level rightfully called timeless: Corinthian helmets, Heraldry, Greek sculpture, Kurt Schwitters’s collages, and the work of Josef Albers.

The book itself is a work of art, a comprehensive account of the spirit and genius of Norman Ives. It has been long in the making. After studying with Ives, the book’s author John T. Hill then taught with Ives at Yale’s School of Fine Arts. This book introduces unseen master works, showcasing the brilliant variety and vitality of the work. It fully delineates his stock in trade—letterforms—which became
“his lyrical strokes, their construction and reconstruction defining his work.”

John T. Hill is a designer, photographer, and author. He has produced books presenting the work of wide-ranging talents, including Walker Evans, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston, Erwin Hauer, and Peter Sekaer.