bill barrett 2012

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Barrett’s sculptures of fabricated aluminum, bronze or steel address the interplay between positive and negative space with grace, elegance and exquisite balance. His works call to mind the fluid effortlessness of calligraphic strokes and betray a positivism to which many viewers feel drawn.


  • BillBarrett DNA

    R A I LYA R D

  • LewAllenGalleries

    cover: DNA 2, 2012, fabricated bronze, 46.5 x 42 x 30



    Railyard: 1613 Paseo De Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 Downtown: 125 West Palace Avenue | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.8997 |

  • Bill Barrett: DNA


    Over the course of an evolving artistic career, Bill Barrett has explored the interplay between positive and negative space with grace, elegance, and exquisite balance. Fluidity, celebration, and effortlessness coexist with form, line, color, and content in his sculptures and paintings. To invoke something greater than aesthetic pleasure in his viewer, an artist must strive to establish a relationship with him; not only must a work appeal to the viewers inner self, to his

    Cupid in Training, 2011, oil on canvas, 60 x 66

    moods and ideas, but the viewer must also feel encouraged to understand the artists practice and process. As Barrett is quick to aver, Merely being beautiful or creative doesnt make art greatart can be a life-giving force enriching ones senses and refreshing ones visions. For Barrett: Important sculptures are sculptures the public can live with, grow with,

  • 3and keep going back to physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    The work of Rodin and Henry Moore provided some of Barretts early inspiration. As a student he aspired to the satisfying freedom of abstract expressionism, but in the late 1950s, when he became a sculptor, welding and fabricating metal attracted him. The full evolution of Barretts artistic creation reveals that several formal ideas recur: the arch, the bridge, and the virile, celebratory thrust of Don Quixotes lance. Underlying it all is the grand theme of Barretts search for an almost impossible synthesis between the tactile process of free modeling, the expressive gesture, and the craft of welding sheets of metal. It took a while for me to truly control the metal. It evolved, says Barrett.

    Three major innovations in sculpture in the first third of the twentieth century, all related and all associated with Picasso, were the wellsprings of the tradition within which Bill Barrett would work: pure abstraction, the technique of construction, and the welding of metal. A further influence on Barretts work was surrealism, which also had its origins in the first third of the century, and to which Picasso also contributed.

    [In 1958] Bill Barrett learned to weld at the University of Michigan with an oxyacetylene torch. The process is very much like gluing two pieces of wood together, except that molten metal plays the role of the glue. To weld two pieces of iron, the welder first places them in contact, usually with clamps. Wearing dark goggles, with one hand he holds the torch, oscillating the flame back and forth across the joint until the metal becomes red hot and then melts...with his other hand he touches the end of a thin welding rod, made of the same material, into the puddle. Adding material in this way, he pushes the puddle along the seam. As the puddle of molten metal enters the seam and cools behind the moving torch, the weld is created. In some cases, Barrett uses a welding rod containing a flux, a metal with a lower melting point, to facilitate the process.

    Creating free-flowing calligraphic images in bronze is no mean feat and Barretts long-time sculpture tool, the welding torch, is far removed from the calligraphers brush. The technique used by most fabricated metal sculptors, making models out of thin metal sheet, wood, or cardboard, is unsatisfactory for Barrett. He believes such materials impose an inhibiting rigidity on the creative process. Not so molten wax, however, whose feel and malleability had always appealed to the sculptor. The power of the calligraphic gesture derives from

    two qualities. One is the immediacy of the drawing, the hand responding to both the minds intent and to the graceful continuity of a cursive line. But calligraphys primary intent is to convey meaning. Even when adopted by an artist such as Jackson Pollock, it retains some of that referential quality, a suggestion of cryptic communication. For Barrett, both aspects are important.

    In the early 1990s, stimulated by the colors and light of New Mexico, Barrett took up the paintbrush for the first time since his student days. Up to that point he had always drawn, but only in the service of his sculpture. Painting became a constant complement to his sculpture. The sources of Barretts painting are the masters of surrealism: Arp, Matta, and Gorky, and above all, his fathers teacher, Fernand Lger. The light of New Mexico, represented by combinations of Mediterranean bright yellows against lollipop reds; and flat French blues between lavenders and lime greens, also infuses his canvases. But the ultimate source of these paintings of the early nineties is Barretts positive nature. Painting became of great importance to Barrett in the 1990s. His work on canvas not only provided an independent outlet for his creativity, but also facilitated the definition of calligraphic and surrealistic images that appear in his sculpture. His ideas and creative energy often exceed the bounds of a single canvas so he works on three or four paintings at once.

    It is the combination of emotional depth with a graceful, joyful expansiveness that accounts for much of the complexity and power of Barretts recent work. Words may illuminate these works, but only dimly. Ultimately they must be welcomed as the untranslatable products of human artistic creativity, to be confronted and prized in a domain that they themselves help to define.

    -Excerpted from Phillip F. Palmedo, Bill Barrett: Evolution of a Sculptor, 2003, New York: Hudson Hills Press

    My sculptures are vehicles through which my humanity communicates with the viewers. In my artwork, I am always striving to incorporate beauty of perfection and emotion, using uplifting forms towards harmony and assertiveness and how they relate to each other. In each new work of art, I am in pursuit of a certain life-spark that I might not have achieved in a previous sculpture or painting.

    -Bill Barrett, excerpted from the exhibition catalog for Polyphonic Abstraction: Paintings and Maquettes by Bill Barret, January

  • 412 August 2, 2010, Christian Petersen Art Museum, Iowa State University.

    Best known for his large public sculptures of welded steel, aluminum, and bronze, Bill Barrett also reveals himself as a prolific, vigorous painter. [Barretts paintings] display a multitude of influences from the classic modern tradition, especially the broken fragments of Cubist composition, the dream-like floating forms of Surrealist abstraction, and the swirling calligraphic energy of Abstract Expressionism. Visible here too are shapes which invoke the American Western landscapemountains and desertsand the Eastern cityscape of towering buildings and manic traffic.Arshile Gorky is Barretts most obvious inspiration among the old masters of modern painting. Gorky took the biomorphs of the Surrealistsundefined organic blobs meant to evoke mysterious life-forms from the Freudian unconsciousand turned them into wild things.

    Barrett keeps the spirit of frolic inherited from Gorkys amoebas, but his biomorphic abstractions are painted with a playful and humorous touch, muppets not monsters from the Id, projecting Barretts own sense of humor and cheerful character, as well as an optimistic attitude we can trace to his Midwestern upbringing.

    In any conversation with Barrett, the theme of dance comes up: he is a great fan of the classical ballet as well as modernist movements made famous by Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham. His compositions, both 3-D and 2-D, suggest individuals and partners engaged in swinging, leaping, kicking, and reaching out and up. With their exuberant choreography, Barretts painting and sculptures summon us to the ecstasy of motion.

    -Dr. John Cunnally, Associate Professor Art History, Iowa State University; excerpted from the exhibition catalog for Polyphonic Abstraction: Paintings and Maquettes by Bill Barrett, January 12 August 2, 2010, Christian Petersen Art Museum, Iowa State University.

  • 5Muskateer, 2010,fabricated bronze, 84 x 84 x 52

  • 6Energia, 2011,fabricated bronze, 44 x 33 x 24

  • 7DNA 3 (large), 2012,cast bronze, 47 x 34 x 14

  • 8Pinnacle II, 2008,fabricated bronze, 36 x 21 x 19

  • 9Pinnacle V, 2008,fabricated bronze, 120 x 84 x 60

  • 10

    Boogie Woogie 1, 2008,cast bronze, 27 x 21 x 15

  • 11

    African, 2008,fabricated bronze, 34.5 x 14 x 21

  • 12

    DNA 7, 2012,cast bronze, 14 x 9 x 9

  • 13

    DNA 6, 2012,cast bronze, 14.5 x 12 x 11

  • 14

    Pinnacle XIX, 2009,cast bronze, 23 x 14 x 12

  • 15

    Untitled Pinnacle Study, 2012,cast bronze, 14.75 x 7 x 9

  • 16

    DNA Model 2, 2011,cast bronze, 15.5 x 14 x 10

  • 17

    DNA Model 5, 2011,cast bronze, 14.5 x 14.5 x 6

  • 18

    DNA Model 1, 2011,cast bronze, 17 x 15.5 x 9

  • 19

    Eastern Memories 1, 1995,cast bronze, 18.5 x 17 x 10

  • 20

    DNA 8, 2012,cast bronze, 14 x 12 x 6

  • 21

    DNA 3, 2012,cast bronze, 23.5 x 17 x 7

  • 22

    DNA Patterns II, 2012,oil on canvas, 84 x 63

  • 23

    Cupids Transgressions, 2011,oil on canvas, 60 x 60

  • 24

    Captain Marvel, 2011,oil on canvas, 72 x 96

  • 25

    Kid Marvel, 2011,oil on canvas, 96 x 72

  • 26

    DNA Patter