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Carlberg was born in Roseau, Minnesota. He studied at the Minneapolis School of Art and at the University of Illinois before going on to study under Josef Albers at Yale. "Recent Sculpture USA", a 1959 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, featured Carlberg's work. Afterwards, Carlberg taught briefly (1960–61) in Santiago, Chile. In 1961, he was named director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. He taught at MICA until 1996. According to marylandartsource.com, Carlberg's sculptures are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Art and Architecture Gallery at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Guggenheim Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
He collaborated with important architects on major public projects, such as the Riverside Centre, designed by Harry Seidler and Associates in Brisbane, Australia. According to the description of Riverside Centre at the firm's website, the main lobby is fifteen meters in height and "the surrounding floors become mezzanines overlooking this space which has a large centrally placed sculpture by Carlberg and tapestries by Calder." For images, see the "External links" section.
Style: Modular constructivism, minimalism
Carlberg has written: "My style of sculpture represents the movement known as 'Modular constructivism', which grew into its maturity and popularity in the 50's and 60's.". The "modular" aspect of Carlberg's constructions is often readily apparent to the eye. Wiktionary defines a module as "a self-contained component of a system, often interchangeable, which has a well-defined interface to the other components."
Carlberg's sculptures often consist of repetitions of such a unit, a basic shape capable of combining with other such elements in various ways - somewhat in the way a composer such as Bach or Webern might compose a piece of music by exploring the combinatorial possibilities of a single motivic cell, working within implicit constraints. At Yale, Erwin Hauer was an important influence who prodded Carlberg in this stylistic direction. While both men often employed curvilinear forms as modules, Carlberg more often used relatively geometric, hard-edged design units, often combining curves with straight edges (or flat planes) in the same module. His prints, mostly dating after 1970, show a similar preoccupation with precision, simplicity, and modularity. Some are actually groups of prints, placed contiguously together on a wall, with each print conceived as a module.
- Constructivism (art)
- Erwin Hauer (sculptor and colleague who influenced Carlberg)
- Maryland Institute College of Art
- Josef Albers (painter; teacher of Carlberg at Yale)
- Formalism (art)
- Harry Seidler (architect; collaborated with Carlberg)
- Riverside Centre (one of Carlberg's collaborative projects)
- Jane Frank (noted student of Carlberg)
- Earl Hofmann (MICA art teacher)
Primary source of information for this article is the Norman Carlberg profile, a website maintained by the following institutions: the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Enoch Pratt Free Library; Johns Hopkins University; the Maryland Institute College of Art; the Maryland Historical Society; the Maryland State Department of Education; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and the Walters Art Museum.
- Carlberg, Norman. Norman Carlberg: an exhibition of sculpture [exhibition catalogue] (Exhibition of sculpture — Norman Carlberg: presented by the Pennsylvania State University College of Arts and Architecture, November 5 – November 29, 1966) OCLC 81988058; OCLC 82275454 (Worldcat links: ; ; )
- Galerie Chalette. Structured sculpture: December 1960-January 1961 (NYC: The Gallery, 1960) [exhibition catalogue] OCLC 6027697
- Montpelier Cultural Arts Center. Sculpture 2000: the twentieth anniversary of the Montpelier invitational sculpture exhibition, Montpelier Cultural Arts Center, June 8 – August 18, 2000 [exhibition catalogue] (Maryland : Montpelier Cultural Arts Center, 2000) OCLC 49254937
- Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.). Recent sculpture U.S.A. Sponsored by the [NYC Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art] (1959; OCLC 1097018)
- COLOR IMAGES of large public Carlberg sculpture at Riverside Centre, built by Harry Seidler and Associates in Brisbane, Australia
- Hirshhorn Gallery permanent collection listing for Carlberg's "Minimal Surface Form 6", 1960.
- Norman Carlberg's submission for the World Trade Center site memorial design competition
- Ford Foundation Grant recipient listing
- Askart.com pages on Norman Carlberg
- Pages on Norman Carlberg at g11.org.uk [click on 'sculpture' link at top, for access to both black and white and COLOR IMAGES of Carlberg's works]
- Fulbright Chile site