Norman Green

Assemblage artist

Tuesday 01 August 2006 00:00
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Norman Sumner Green, artist and publisher: born Boston, Massachusetts 25 February 1921; married 1950 Norma Berger (two sons; marriage dissolved 1970), 1988 Patricia Lloyd (née Gooderham; one stepson, one stepdaughter); died London 16 April 2006.

Norman Green was by profession a publisher, by nature a gifted artist. Although his artwork was only occasionally exhibited, and for many years he worked without seeking recognition, Green was among the most brilliant modern makers of assemblages. The writer and critic Sister Wendy Beckett was one of the first to appreciate Green's unique abilities. She wrote:

Much of Norman Green's work reminds me of that master of assemblage art, Picasso. His work often has the same wit, inventiveness and ability to move.

Green was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1921, the middle of three children of a general practitioner. After Boston Latin School, he attended Harvard University, studying economics and political science, with art history as an added subject. In the early 1950s, with his elder brother, Paul, he formed a trade magazine firm, Intercontinental Publications.

As a boy, Green was a compulsive collector, his room full of wooden patterns, matrices, tools and machine parts. At Harvard the collecting continued. By his mid-twenties he had to rent a warehouse to house these raw materials, with which he would make unusual juxtapositions, rearrangements and assemblies. Green had an obvious talent for the paste-up necessary to magazine production. Unlike paste-up, done at speed, the sculptural assemblages only emerged after patient cogitation and reflection. For Green, "the wood has to talk". He might handle the same object for months or even years before the final creation emerged.

Although Green won several art competitions in Connecticut and was persuaded to display pieces at the Silver Gallery, the Little Gallery and elsewhere, he did not court public exhibitions. When in 1972 he moved to London to manage the European end of the magazine business, his public career was launched when the dealer Jane England, at England & Co, chose three works by him for one of her art-in-boxes shows.

All three sold. "We were pleased," recalls Green's widow, Patricia, "although Norman had ambivalent feelings, as he loved his pieces and didn't like parting with them. Sister Wendy Beckett thought his work the best in the show."

The Greens got in touch with her, she put Norman in touch with the dealer Duncan Campbell and when Green's first solo show was put on in his Kensington gallery in 1994 Sister Wendy opened it. Another followed in 1996. They revealed Green's huge range of influences - Aztec, African, Eastern European - as well as a tilt at 20th-century American art.

David Buckman

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