A book published on the occasion of this exhibition includes essays by Eleanor Heartney, Stephen Westfall, Raphael Rubinstein and David Cohen, from the latter of whom the following paragraph is extracted:
His strategy entails means of generating isolated pockets of chance within a meticulously balanced, evolving order. Norton is able to draw on years of experience as a commercial house painter, as well of course as a fine artist. He starts a painting with a layer of transparent medium applied allover. The first intimation of a compositional structure is the chance pattern of brushstroke visible in the primed ground. Her refers to what commercial painters call “holidays,” the lesions or overlaps that prevent a brushless smooth surface. (In view of the noisy brood that a Norton composition will spawn it is worth recalling the words of Toru Takemitsu, that silence is the mother – or perhaps grandmother – of music.) As a non-volitional means of generating marks, canvases are often then laid on the floor where they accept studio droppings and stray flings of paint from other works in process. When he finds himself responding consciously to the emerging composition the canvas graduates to the wall. It is presumably at this stage that he becomes more acutely aware, and protective, of remaining clear ground. This ontology is significant as it reverses, or at least complicates, a causal notion of raw ground supporting cultivated or tolerated accumulations. The complexity brings to mind random pockets on an ethnographic or linguistic map where it looks like a stray group has settled whereas they are the remnant of the group that was already there.
Pictured: Sampling Time, 2016-17
C. Michael Norton: Infinity’s Sprawl at UNIX Gallery, 532 West 24th Street, New York City, October 26 to December 09; reception: Thursday, October 26, 6-8PMprint