Transformation of Culture into Interior Decoration

Ball’s penchant for seeking out sumptuous stones plays a signal role in his virtuoso encounters with various old masters. Many of his “masterpieces” are fashioned from recherché materials with exotic colorations and dramatic markings (including Italian Fantastico marble and Pakistani onyx). Other times, he selects marble or alabaster (Iranian white onyx) of an almost eerie luminosity.
Jan Ernst Allmann, “The Theatrum Mundi of Barry X Ball”, “Sculpture”, Nov 2011, p. 32

Barry X Ball, “Envy”, 2008 – 10

Barry X Ball, “Purity”, 2008 – 10

Barry X Ball, View of installation in Sala del Trono, Ca, Rezzonico, with “Envy” (left) and “Purity” (right), golden honeycomb calcite versions

Barry X Ball, “Envy”, 2008 – 10, Belgian black marble (left) and Macedonian marble (right)

Barry X Ball, “Envy”, 2008 – 11, Mexican onyx

Great works of art created centuries ago continue to be an inspiration for people flooding the museums and for modern masters. Some artists have an encounter with the artistic inspirations of the previous epochs in aesthetic language of today, some (like Picasso) reinterpret the old interpretations, but Barry X Ball likes to embellish the old sculptures, to make them part of the today’s interiors, to make them an item of interior decoration.

People like to embellish spruces for Christmas Eve, to transform spruce into a Christmas tree. Barry X Ball does with sculptures created several centuries ago something similar – he recasts them, re-edits them into a decorative often multicolored or unexpectedly colored materials (golden honeycomb calcite, Mexican onyx, Portuguese gold marble, Italian Portoro marble, Belgian black marble, etc). Sculptures start to tickle your perception, to make it be occupied with itself. Our visual perception becomes the goal in itself, satisfied with itself.

But aren’t these modified: as if multi-lit by Barry X Ball sculptures beautiful? They are pleasant to look at; it’s nice to have them in our visual field. It is like looking at the design of the upholstery fabric of my sofa. But is this a kind of beauty that inspired the sculptors who became the basis for Barry X Ball’s work? It seems relevant at this point to consider two kinds of beauty – the beauty of visual perception, and the beauty of the heart, perceptional beauty and existential one. Existential beauty is more than we, more than our life; it includes the otherness – aspects of the reality which hasn’t been conquered by us. Perceptional beauty (may be, to call it prettiness?) is a result of feeling that we are in charge of our visual environment, that we are successfully settled in a world. The beauty of the nice and pretty object relaxes us because it gives us the feeling that the world (at least that around us in a particular moment) is under our power and control, as if it is designed not by powers beyond our control. The beauty of cloth design or interior decoration is the aesthetic imitation of a pleasant sunny summer day with a light breeze caressing our skin. It is the beauty of a wall-paper and wall painting.

Decorative beauty corresponds to taste of those who instead of being open to the world, live by psychologically defending themselves from the world. Decorative beauty is a sister of religious and political dogma. It corresponds to the psychology of the conquerors, emperors and globalist expansionists who after their victories like to relax amidst world transformed into hotel garden.

If serious art helps us to be in a tough mutuality with the world, decorative art helps us to be shielded and isolated from the world – it transforms the world’s otherness into the prettiness of a coquettish housemaid. Decorative beauty is for money and for the people of money. It is armchair for banknotes and coins. Ball’s readiness to use (and his proficiency in using) up-to-date technology in working with sculptures he modifies/modernizes is connected with his aspiration for universal success with beauty without complications and ambiguity of depth. “In musing on his engagement with ‘the longer history of art’, he observed, ‘I like mixing it up with the old guys!’ While grappling with sculpture’ old guys – most strikingly with the Baroque – Ball deploys a sophisticated 3-D scanning and virtual modeling technology, computer-controlled milling, detailed hand-curving and polishing and, often, applying a complex resin infusion.” (Jan Ernst Allmann, ibid, p. 31) Is Barry X Ball – Gianni Versace and Karl Lagerfeld of the art of sculpture?