NORMAN ZAMMITT (1931-2007) was born in Toronto, Canada in 1931 of Native American and Sicilian descent. Following life on the Caugnawaga Reservation outside of Montreal and in Buffalo New York, he moved with his family to California in 1945. From 1951 to 1955 he served in the U.S. Air Force as a photographer, including a one year tour of duty in Korea. He attended Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California and Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles on scholarship, earning his AA and MFA degrees between 1956 to 1961. Through 1963 and 1971, Zammitt taught at the University of New Mexico, the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 1968 and a Pollock Krasner grant recipient in 1991.
His list of solo exhibits include the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (LACMA) and Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. Group shows include two hallmark exhibits, “American sculpture of the Sixties” in 1967 and “The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting,” 1890-1985 that inaugurated the Robert O. Anderson Building at LACMA and the Hague, Holland.
Among the museum and institutional collections in which he is represented are the MOMA in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Hirschhorn Museum and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., MOMA of San Francisco, LACMA in Los Angeles and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. Private collections include those of Edwin Land (estate), Dr. Richard Feynman (estate), Truman Capote (estate), John Kluge (estate) and Norman Lear.
Zammitt began his professional career in art with the Felix Landau Gallery in Los Angeles, 1960. Exploring landscape and figurative landscape painting in the realms of surrealism and semi-abstraction, using oils, mixed medium and printmaking.
Beginning in 1964 he pioneered the use of acrylic plastic resins in combination with transparent colors in an innovative concept of three dimensionality seen for the first time in Los Angeles and New York. He received a Guggenheim award in 1968.
In 1972 he returned to painting, continuing his interest in color relationships explored earlier in the three dimensional work. These paintings were of large-scale color relationships culminating in images of spiritual or ethereal purity.
In the 80’s and 90’s the artist pursued this direction, which led him to an environmental work called the “Elysium”. The Elysium was meant to be a culmination of all the artist’s concerns and interests in color relationships, in matters of scale and the emotional impact of this combination. In 1991 he received a Pollock Krasner grant.
In 1997 the artist began the first stage of creating the Elysium by converting his use of colors to ultra violet light sensitive pigments. All four walls of the room would be painted, wall to wall and ceiling to floor to create an out –of-worldly, all black light space allowing the walls to lose their substance and the color to illuminate within the room and beyond the walls.
He created a prototype Elysium in Los Angeles studio. In September 2000, the City of Los Angeles declared it a Los Angeles Cultural site and he was awarded a commendation by the Los an city council.
Zammitt’s final body of work, 1999-2007, was a series of small self portrait drawings in black and white and color, in various styles and expressions that reflect the complexities and disharmony of the human experience.