special tribute
Norris Embry

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Tribute by Thomas M. Messer
Director emeritus The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

October, 2006

When, as Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, I had occasion to introduce Norris Embry's art, he was in his thirties and therefore classified as " young talent " ; but this youthful art already impressed me by its strength, conviction and meaningful innovation.

It is rewarding, therefore, to note the increasing attention that his work is receiving now, by American as well as European art institutions and one may only wish that he had lived to witness the current extent of his acceptance.

At the time of the Boston show I was interested in the relationship between Embry's creative sources and his ability to merge these with innovative work of his own. I thought then that the tortured images of Van Gogh; Redon's texture in morbid contexts; and most specifically, Austrian and German Expressionism, had played an important part in influencing Embry's creation.

Even at this relatively early stage it was evident that, what was uniquely his own, merged convincingly with what he borrowed, thus having lead me to the conclusion that his debt to those who inspired him was about to be cancelled.

Norris Embry thus leaves us a legacy in which the seeming contradiction between expressive freedom and essential control, is admirably resolved and carried onto convincing ends. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the artist's death provides us with an appropriate occasion to pay tribute to his important contribution.

Tribute overview

Circa: 1960's