The Collaborative Art World of Norm Laich 

“A commercial sign painter by trade, for over 30 years Norm Laich has been the go-to fabricator for artists who want text painted in their work and need it done right. Although Laich downplays his role, telling me he considers himself merely a “freelance production assistant,” those he works with are more generous. In a short documentary produced by Pauline Stella Sanchez to accompany an ICA LA show of work Laich has had a hand in, Scott Grieger—whose 1995 wall work United States of Anxiety, an ominous black outline of the U.S. map with the titular phrase written inside, is in the show—notes, “I don’t think of him as an assistant at all. I think of him as another artist I work with.”

The exhibition This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich And Many Other Artists at the ICA LA highlights works that Laich has produced with artists over the past few decades (and in turn takes visitors on a sort of art historical romp, showcasing works from movements like conceptualism and appropriation art through the current moment). Yet the works on view, freed from a rigid art historical framework, instead are recast under the vibrant narrative of collaboration. This Brush features a selection of contemporary artists, mainly from L.A.—including John Baldessari, Meg Cranston, Mike Kelley, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Amanda Ross-Ho, and several others— however the show doesn’t really belong to any of them.”

From Matt Stromberg, “The Collaborative Art World of Norm Laich,” Contemporary Art Review LA, (September 10, 2018).

Image: video still from This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and Many Other Artists (2018), video by Pauline Stella Sanchez, courtesy of Sanchez and ICA LA.