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Norman with Rod Organ 2, 2005

NORMAN   TUCK

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Norman Victor Tuck was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1945. and grew up in South Florida.

In 1963 he entered the University of Florida where he studied sculpture under Geoffrey Naylor. Upon graduation Norman worked as an assistant to Professor Naylor.

Geoffrey Naylor, c.1967.

Title Unknown

approx. 6 ft. x 10 ft,

mixed media with electric motor.

As an undergraduate Norman created a series of large motorized pieces in which polished metal panels turned behind "windows" of translucent polyester resin. 

Colorfully lit, the pieces found a home at a local "head-shop," The Subterranean Circus, where they joined psychedelic and Op-Art posters of the period.

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Octagon -1966

8 ft. x 8 ft. x 2 ft.

mixed media with electric motor.

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Upon graduation Norman got a mechanic's job at an automobile dealership in Gainesville. In late 1967 he left Florida for New York City where he worked at an MG repair shop on Manhattan's  Upper East Side.

Shop Floor, Adams-Mahoney & Co.

c.1967

429 E. 74th St., NYC

Kinetic sculpture's popularity peaked during the 1960's, culminating in the 1968 exhibition, The Machine As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, at New York's Museum of Modern Art. The metal covered catalog for the  exhibition contained a history of kinetic sculpture and an introduction to the work of contemporary kinetic artists. 

As the title implies, by the late 1960s mechanical devices were already becoming "dated." Hewlett Packard introduced the first personal computers during the year of the exhibition. Much of Norman's work refers to the earlier, pre-digital, mechanical age.

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Cover: The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age

Pontus Hulten, Editor

The Museum of Modern Art - 1968

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Another influential book from this period was Arte Povera by Germano Celant. It introduced Norman to works by Walter de Maria, Michelangelo Pisteletto, Maria Mertz, Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman, and other artists whose style resonated with Norman's sensibilities.

Cover: Arte Povera 

Germano Celant.

Praeger Publications - 1969

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Spinning Drums - 1972

16 ft. x 5 ft. x 4 ft.

mixed media with electric motor

In 1970 Norman entered the M.F.A. program at the Pennsylvania State University in State College. Here he created a series of large, open, linear kinetic pieces in a minimalist style that would become a characteristic of his later work.

As a graduate student Norman also worked with large format black and white photography and created several small black and white photographic books. 

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Umbrella - 1971

20 ft. x 14 ft. x 5 ft.

mixed media with electric motor

12 hour cycle

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Norman' in his Basement Studio at 72 Thompson S., NYC. c.1972

(click to see ithe works llustrated )

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In 1972 Norman returned to New York City. For the next 15+ years he worked as a gallery assistant in the art galleries that were springing up in the SOHO neighborhood of Lower Manhattan.

For many years Norman found regular work at the OK Harris Gallery, where he helped with each month's many installations. Gallery work offered a interesting glimpse into complexities of the commercial art market.

Norman's work began to be included in group shows throughout the City, and in 1973 Norman moved into a 2,500 square foot live/work space at 137 Bowery, which he would later share with his friend and fellow gallery worker, the painter, Phil Smith. 

 

In 1974 Ivan Karp offered Norman a show at the OK Harris Gallery, his first solo exhibition in New York. And so it went, one little show after another for many years.

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Screw

At OK Harris - 1974

16 ft. x 10 ft. x 5 ft.

mixed media with electric motor

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In 1979 Norman moved into a small building at 147 Broadway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here he became active in an informal "guerrilla" movement of artist-organized exhibitions that "popped-up" in marginal neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. 

The Monumental Show - poster

1981 - artist unknown

approx. 11" x 17"  - offset litho

During the 1970's and 80's Norman held several temporary teaching positions at the University of Minnesota, Hunter College, and Wake Forest University.

 

In 1982-83 he served as interim gallery director of the Wake Forest University Art Gallery in Winston-Salem, NC.

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In 1984 a 20-minute VHS video of Norman's artwork was seen by Joe Ansel, an assistant director of the Exploratorium, a "museum of science, art and human perception" in San Francisco. Joe passed the tape along to other science museums, and Norman was  offered a long residency at the New York Hall of Science. This led to other residencies, and soon Norman's pieces began to be exhibited in, and purchased by a network of large science museums, worldwide.

In 1992 the bulk of Norman Tuck's work was gathered together at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem North Carolina for a major retrospective exhibition entitled Mindless Mechanisms.

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Mindless Mechanisms Exhibition

1991-1992, View of Gallery #1

Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

Winston-Salem, NC

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The Art Machines Exhibition

with Confetti Fountain

1992-1999

 View of the installation at The Exploratorium.. 1994.

In 1993 Norman and Joe Ansel together organized a new exhibition of Norman's work which they entitled Art Machines. Art Machines included works from the very successful 1991-92  Mindless Mechanisms exhibition. 

 

Ansel marketed the traveling exhibition to a network of science museums that were looking for a mechanically reliable installation of interactive physics related artworks that might attract a large and diverse audience.

 Art Machines proved to be extremely successful.  By the time Art Machines ended its run at the Science Museum of Minnesota in September of 1999 it had traveled to eight different venues where, for a total exhibition time of more than 30 months, it had been experienced by tens of thousands of enthusiastic visitors. 

The interactive science museum network gave Norman an opportunity to see his work being enjoyed by large audiences. 

 

However, for the past 30+ years Norman's work has only rarely been exhibited within the fine-arts galleries and art museums for which they had originally been intended.

Norman currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, the sound artist Brenda Hutchinson.

Many of Norman Tuck's sculptures are currently in storage in Northern California.

© N.T. 2022

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Norman and Brenda at the phaeno Museum, 2015

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