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Show tracks Ann Norton’s development as an artist

The best place to begin touring “Ann Weaver Norton: Gateways to Modernism” is in the gallery opening out into the gardens.

The works in here, which show the influence of Art Deco, are some of her earliest.

In a way, the gallery’s proximity to Norton’s crowning achievement, the monumental abstract sculptures in the garden, link the beginning and the end of her career just as the show tracks her path from childhood sketches to the precursors for the big sculptures.

The show is on view at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach, the home the late artist once shared with her husband, Norton Museum founder Ralph Norton.

The exhibition, which was curated by Cynthia Inklebarger, is the first organized by the Ann Norton since Roger Ward took over as president and chief executive in March.

Its purpose is “to show with a few objects how Ann Norton studied, observed, accomplished and changed,” Ward said. “It’s so interesting to see her grow as an artist and where she ended up, as an abstract artist who expressed her mystical ideas through art.”



The exhibition is grouped by the primary styles and subjects that interested the artist.

Norton, who was born in Alabama, moved to New York City to study art in 1929. At the time, social realism and Art Deco were the dominant artistic styles.

In the gallery off the garden, Design for a Memorial Fountain, carved in 1936 from a solid block of marble, recalls the pinnacle of the Chrysler Building, an Art Deco icon completed in 1930. Already, the artist was thinking on a monumental scale.

Nearby, the brass sculpture Cock, also from 1936, illustrates a different technique, modeling, the first step in casting in metal. With its open spaces and swirling lines, Cock brings to mind Art Deco and the work of Alexander Archipenko, with whom Norton apprenticed.

The gallery also points to a practice that extended throughout the artist’s career, her tendency to revisit a subject over and over again. Drawings of roosters displayed on the walls date from childhood pencil sketches to slashing undated charcoal renditions executed as an adult.

Norton’s story continues in a small gallery where works from the 1940s illustrate the influence of social realist artists as well as her childhood in Alabama. Many of the subjects are figures from her past — such as the small bronzes of a black washboard musician, jitterbug dancers and a woman getting her hair cut. They’re executed in a rounded, rippling style reminiscent of Thomas Hart Benton, a leader of the social realist movement.

A glass cabinet on the wall features catalogs from Norton’s more important exhibitions and other printed materials. During her lifetime, Norton exhibited her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other venues.

Another gallery focuses on the human figure. Viewers can see the artist experimenting with various incarnations of a favorite pose — a woman seated on the ground with one bent knee — as well as her command of materials ranging from silky alabaster to bronzes with surfaces as pebbled as dried mud.

The final gallery shows her working out her ideas for the big Gateway sculptures in the garden, executed in the 1970s. For her, the term gateway had nothing to do with garden gates. Rather, “they’re more gateways you’d travel in your mind,” Inklebarger said.

The works illustrate Norton’s progression from gestural charcoal and watercolor sketches to sculptures carved in cedar to a small bronze maquette of Gateway 5, the large-scale brick version of which stands in the gardens, bringing the show full circle. Norton apparently re-thought the design for Gateway 5. It’s upside down in the garden.


If You Go

What: “Ann Weaver Norton: Gateways to Modernism”

When: through Nov. 26

Where: Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, 2051 S. Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach

For information: Call 832-5328 or visit ansg.org

Article source: http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/local/show-tracks-ann-norton-development-artist/LVT7m0iuS4VLfmSUQ64jVM/