NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 76

The Temptation of Space Why would a sculptor abandon the third dimension? What might that act of renunciation mean to him and to his viewers? 74 Any answer, in the case of C. Michael Norton, must acknowledge that the purge is never complete: some vestige of space always remains, endowing the artist’s “flat” colorful paintings with both formal and psychological depth. Norton’s journey to the acrylic brightness of his mature work has been a long one, marked throughout by interaction between conceptual binaries — in short, a dialectical progress. Tellingly, the artist was born and raised in North Dakota, yet today lives in downtown Manhattan. That relocation alone — from provincial origins to dense urban life, from simplicity and clarity on the plains to cosmopolitan complexity and flux in Tribeca — is enough to alert us that his nature is divided. When Norton left the Middle American By RICHARD VINE q C. Michael Norton prairie for Humbolt State University in Arcata, California, he first studied bronze casting, a brute mineral-based procedure, alien to any sensibility formed by rapport with the land. Understandably, he soon grew dissatisfied with the semi-industrial process and its cult of swaggering machismo. After his ba (1977), Norton switched to San Jose State, where, earning both an ma (1978) and mfa (1981), he set about making open, sometimes latticework, assemblages of wood, wire, paper, and plaster.