ROBERT BERMAN GALLERY presents illuminated works and paintings by Norton Wisdom. The exhibition will feature oil on Mylar pieces within plexi light boxes depicting abstract surf scenes inspired from Wisdom’s time spent as a Malibu lifeguard and mixed media REMIX works utilizing Wisdom's live performance paintings as source material for the oil and c-print based collages.
Wisdom will perform live at the opening reception on Saturday, September 18th beginning at 8PM.
Norton Wisdom began his artistic life at fourteen when he attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. A student of the luminous John Altoon (one of the preeminent artists of West Coast avant-gardism of the 50’s and 60’s), Wisdom was introduced, not only to the fundamentals of figure drawing, but also to the bold conceptual-based and humanistic thinking which would lay the groundwork for his future endeavors.
Wisdom first began exhibiting his own work in San Francisco in the 1970s but withdrew all of his work from galleries in 1974 and spent the following eight years immersed in studio work. That same year he became a lifeguard and the endless hours he spent staring out at the ocean while working on the beaches of Malibu, Topanga and Zuma contributed to his minimalist vision as a painter. In the late 1970s while in Germany for an exhibition, Wisdom painted over 150 meters of the East side of the Berlin wall during the night using searchlights to illuminate his work. He was subsequently arrested, detained and sent back to the U.S. but the experience convinced him that he could no longer work in the static studio environment and soon he began collaborating with punk bands and working in a performative style. Wisdom has been painting to live music ever since with bands like Panic and Banyan along with musicians Mike Watt and Stephen Perkins. His live, improvisational paintings are temporary interpretations of music that only exist during the space of the performance. The paintings are destroyed but a c-print of the piece resurfaces in remix collages mounted on canvas.
Wisdom has performed around the world at venues as varied as the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, to the Butu Dance Company in Japan, and locally at the Walt Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles. His paintings and sculpture can be found in the permanent collections of notable museums including the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, the Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin, and the Orange County Museum of Art.
The show also contains select pieces from Steven Friedman's Pole collection: linear imagery painted in one brushstroke on acrylic rods. The paint is mixed on the brush and during application in a process that has the character of caligraphy, except to render not linguistic signs but landscapes, figures and vistas, discreetly. The result is a visual haiku. In constructing the images, horizontal axes abstract as landscapes, vertical axes as figures.