January 16, 2023   |   By Andrea Perez Bessin

A Lithographer’s Legacy

Exhibit at the Newport Art Museum features collected works of Joseph Norman

To know a lithographer is to know an alchemist.

And Joseph Norman, a uniquely influential artist, is one of the most important lithographers of his generation.

As an artistic medium, lithography exists in the realm of the improbable: Oil and water assert their locations on the level surface of a stone to give way to an image that can be repeatedly transferred on paper for as long as the chemistry holds.

Joseph Norman’s particular alchemy extends well beyond the medium because he creates powerful amalgams of experience where the individual, the collective, the political, the literary, and the art historical converge to address personal narratives, historical events, social justice, and racial inequality.

Norman made Newport his home in the mid 1980s, and it was in Rhode Island where the artist built the foundation for a successful career in the arts that has spanned many decades.

A new exhibition at the Newport Art Museum honors Norman’s legacy.

“Joseph Norman: Works from the Permanent Collection,” features selections from series such as “Tenements,” “Berlin Autumn,” “Out at Home: Negro Baseball League,” and “Ole Jim Crow’s Scarecrows,” and is on display through April 16, 2023.

The exhibit is curated by Francine Weiss, who came across Norman’s work in the museum archives.

The exhibition opened Oct. 14 with a reception and panel discussion where Norman was joined in conversation with Bob Dilworth, painter, and Christopher Roberts, assistant professor of Theory and History of Art and Design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

The three men talked about artistic process, identity and its intersection with mark-making, and Norman’s influential time spent living in Rhode Island (he and Dilworth crossed paths in Providence in the early 1990s).

Their discussion offered a useful lens for considering the works on display.