click here for preview from the 2003 show
Art Brut; (adj. French; l’art brut) term coined in 1945 by French painter Jean Dubuffet, also known as “Outsider Art”, “Visionary Art”, Art of Trauma” and “Art of the Insane”.
Art Brut has gained immense popularity in galleries and museums throughout Europe especially in France and Germany. Dubuffet stated that the works of such people represent a most extreme form of individualism, in that these artists create for themselves rather than for the public.
Such is the work of NORRIS.
I met Norris by chance in the spring of 2000. On unrelated business, I happened to be in his apartment. I notice the typical bachelor décor, overflowing ashtrays and cat hair on...everything. Pocket cash wadded up on the table next to the wadded up McDonalds wrappers and sleeping bag on the couch. You know...typical. What caught my eye was something quite out of the ordinary…neatness. In my peripheral I see organization amidst the chaos. At first I see a small group of maybe a dozen neatly stack paintings. A few sketch books protected from the cigarette ash and cat hair.
Then, I’m partly stunned. I realize I’m looking at not a few sketch books. There are over a dozen. There aren’t a dozen paintings. There are over a couple HUNDRED.
attempt to strike up a conversation with someone whom at first impression
seems perhaps lackadaisical, lethargic and perhaps even shy. I boldly
ask if I may look through some of the paintings. As I peruse these I see
a rare form of art brut. Somewhat naïve, some traces of “self-taught”,
but mostly a legitimate sophistication that I had yet to see regionally
in the realm of “abstract expressionism”.
I continue to engage Norris in the conversation asking if he shows or sell his work. He mumbles something about a couple of relatives liking his stuff. So I explain that I’m involved in the art community and that if he was interested we could put together a show of his work.
That was the first time we made direct eye contact. Eyes very clear, very intelligent, yet with a dull, low, monotone voice responds, ”Would I have to be there?” I realized I was dealing with a man that IS all there, He’s just not answering the door. I said, “Nope, I’ll take care of the whole thing.”
I excused myself for the time being a dropped in a couple more times to confirm his interest. I even had to pry into his personal life a bit to contact members of said personal life to verify he was capable of speaking on his own behalf regarding business proceedings.
One person responded with, “Why? Do you really think his stuff would sell?”
I suppose his debut show selling-out answers that.
Over the past few years as I continue to engage with Norris (it’s difficult. He’s a recluse), I’ve come to know a bit regarding his inspiration, focal point and inspiration. Basically, it is simply how he sees THINGS. You, me, the TV, the neighbors house, the walk to the convenience store. He truly appears to view color and shape the same manner Kandinsky explained to Monet his manner of “seeing”.
has some experience and interest in architectural design and drafting
from earlier in life. This shows often.
I personally love abstract expressionism. It speaks so pointedly to the childlike chaotic part of my soul. The first time a saw an original Kandinsky was at the Nelson. From across the room it took away my breath and brought tears to my eyes. I believe Miro and Kandinsky are gods among artists.
I believe Norris is the best expressionism I’ve see in the region. Most contemporary painters mess around with expressionism, using it to augment landscapes, portraits or architectural studies because they were too lazy to design or to finish a background for the subject.
No, Norris’ work is rare. It is purposeful. I’ve been asked if his work reminds me of anyone in particular. No. It stands on it own. The paintings are original thought in the genre of abstract expressionism. The drawings do look a bit like R. Crumb did renderings of M.C. Escher / Frank Lloyd-Wright collaborations. I always judge art by these two criteria; 1-Quality of craftsmanship 2-Quality of intent. Norris has both.
How might this years’ show be different from his debut? Outside that Norris is continuing to paint on a larger scale, no real difference. That’s the beauty, same freshness, same uniqueness and same delightful, haunting intrigue. You’ll still walk up and say, ”I know what that is...that’s a... what the HELL IS THAT?”
Chris Gulick. ART CONTRACTOR, representing NORRIS.