The Foundations series of permanent collection installations complements, contextualizes, and expands upon the featured exhibition on view. For Foundations: Barry X Ball, the artist and Nasher Chief Curator Jed Morse have selected works that provide insights into Ball’s deep ties to Modernism and highlight aspects of these historical precursors that resonate in his work today.
For centuries, artists have looked to the work of their predecessors for lessons and ideas. Auguste Rodin modestly said of his sculptures’ open embrace of the example of antiquity, “I invent nothing. I rediscover.” Artists from Henri Matisse to Alex Israel continue to look to and quote from the glories of Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as other sources, such as the anonymous makers of tribal artifacts that also inspired artists like Alberto Giacometti and Julio González. Ball is also an astute observer and aficionado of art history who has made new work based on high-resolution digital scans and intense consideration of iconic sculptures from antiquity to the modern era in his Masterpieces series. Ball based his Perfect Forms on Umberto Boccioni’s, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space of 1913, one of the landmarks of Futurism, the tenets of dynamism, mechanization, and energy of which echo in Raymond Duchamp-Villon’s contemporaneous composition, Large Horse, of 1914. Ball has also made a comprehensive study of, and numerous compositions based on, the work of Medardo Rosso, whose experimental wax and plaster sculptures remain just as radical today as they were when he made them in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The Nasher holds one of the largest collections of Rosso works in the world—seven wax and plaster sculptures—including several compositions related to the ones on which Ball based his contemporary stone sculptures.
Several of the concerns that have occupied Ball over the last three decades also have been of interest for artists who preceded him. The expressive shifts in scale found in a number of Ball’s Portraits were explored before him by artists like Giacometti and Paul Gauguin. Similarly, one finds echoes of Ball’s examination of duality in works by Constantin Brancusi, Matisse, and David Smith. Numerous sculptors over the past 150 years, from Naum Gabo to Tony Smith, also have shared Ball’s interest in harnessing scientific, technological, and material advancements. Foundations: Barry X Ball highlights the connections between Ball’s work and that of his predecessors and contemporaries, shedding light on the persistent interests that have occupied sculptors for centuries and connect Ball’s work with that of the past.