Made In The Ghetto
January 14, 2017 - February 27, 2017
Norm Maxwell: Made In The Ghetto (1969-2016) honors the life and body of work of the recently-deceased urban contemporary artist and long-time Luna Rienne Gallery collaborator.
Born in Philadelphia, PA on January 25, 1969, Maxwell and his two brothers had a rough upbringing in a broken home. He was fully susceptible to and influenced by street life, finding his expression in writing graffiti as “Ice”. His mother’s artistic inclinations, frequent visits to the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, and encouragement from teachers led him to pursue an academic degree in art.
After art school, Maxwell moved to downtown Los Angeles (AKA Skid Row) to pursue his art career. There, he met his two life-long peers, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Clarence Williams and urban art visionary Doze Green. Scraping by on their creativity and wit, they pushed each other to evolve into working artists. Maxwell and Green cultivated their fine art painting while also beginning to design graphic tees and street wear.
Several years later, Maxwell and Green made their way to San Francisco, which at the time was busting at the seams with underground culture. Late-night venues like the Kennel Club (now The Independent) hosted live and DJ music events with artists selling their wares. There, Maxwell began hawking his “Made In The Ghetto” t-shirts and met his Revolution Clothing partner Shinobu Funahashi.
San Francisco in the mid-1990s boasted not just an unstoppable cultural output in music, nightlife, and design, but also the birth of the World Wide Web. In addition to showing his art in Upper and Lower Haight, creating club flyers and hip hop album covers, and designing clothing, Maxwell partnered with fledgling Internet start-up fabric8 (now Luna Rienne Gallery) to build an animated, ecommerce website that garnered numerous design awards.
Maxwell took that newfound skill, along with his wife and young daughter, back to Los Angeles to establish roots for his family. He became the art director for a music video production company whose high-profile clients included TLC, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and Destiny’s Child. Maxwell also produced and directed his own short film, titled The Osiris Project.
In 2007, Maxwell decided to focus on his fine art career and opened Norm Maxwell Studio Gallery in West Los Angeles. The studio moved twice before finding its final location in Fairfax Village. Through his studio gallery, which he ran for 6 years, Maxwell created a vast and diverse body of work, including commissions for patrons in Los Angeles, Paris, Seoul, Berlin, and Dubai.
At the time of his passing in July 2016, Korean patrons had recently opened Norm Maxwell Gallery Seoul and Maxwell was hard at work on a series entitled Voyage Through The Void.
Maxwell was a prolific artist whose skills and subject matter spanned the extremes of painting. From acrylic spray to oil brush, street life to ancient myth, and urban strife to family life, Maxwell addressed both the evil and beauty of humanity – a duality that he personally struggled with during his short and magnificent life. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Norm “Nomzee” Maxwell was a visual artist whose education came via the streets (Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles) and the Hussian School Of Art. His combination of urban upbringing and fine art training resulted stylistically in an esoteric combination of color, light, and subject matter. Culturally, Maxwell was a quintessential urban contemporary artist, with a portfolio that included graffiti, street wear design, club flyer and album art, graphic design, set design, and fine art painting. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 47.