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Barry X Ball (b. 1955)
transclucent onyx and stainless steel on Macedonian marble
overall: 68 x 17 ¼ x 12 in. (172.7 x 43.8 x 30.5 cm.)
Executed in 2008-2013.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

Artist Statement

There is a long history of artists making works "after" those of their forebears. Although employing an advanced technological armamentarium, I am also working in that ancient tradition. Fueled by love, I'm reaching way back to a time centuries before the Modernist Revolution, searching for a way to make something equally revolutionary.
New in my art, commencing with the Envy variations, was the utilization of a 3D digital scan of a specific existing physical sculpture as my point of origin. No longer content to have my work be generally reminiscent of or inspired by historical sources, I used Giusto Le Court’s identifiable, specific endpoint as my beginning. I set for myself the task of making a sculpture that is "more perfect" than the Invidia, a Baroque masterwork in the permanent collection of Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice. Here is a partial list of the ways I went about achieving that goal:
1. The subtle additions I have effected and the manner in which I have carved/polished my work has made it a true sculpture-in-the-round, not a frontal figure intended for niche placement.
2. I have chosen rare, innovative stones for my works, not traditional white Italian marble. The effusively figured, pitted, and colored “Wounded” Mexican onyx of Envy renders its shawl, drapery, and figure diaphanous and purposely, ethereally indistinct. The onyx’s exuberant “wounds” and venation, fitting for a depiction of a bile-filled old crone, establish a parallel surface network, one that alternately camouflages and reveals the sculptures’ folds and sweeps, while adding a dizzying complexity. When externally lit, the translucent appears to radiate warm inner light.
3. My sculptural treatment of every detail is intentionally softer, more flowing, less sharp than that of the Baroque work. I strove to elevate the stone “cloth” to become more than a covering, an element co-equal with the figure.
4. I have corrected several of Le Court’s sculptural errors. Details of his work are confused or poorly realized.
5. Most of Envy’s matte passages are activated with a pattern of horizontal micro-flutes, cultured evidence of the methodical computer-numerically-controlled high-speed water-cooled diamond milling that is a critical part of it’s elaborate machine/hand carving regimen. I gave other portions of the sculpture a fine, non-directional satin finish so that those surfaces softly "disappear". Still other parts of Envy – its back and the lower frontal region – are selectively mirror-polished. In contrast, the Le Court bust has a quickly-worked, scratchy, dull surface finish throughout.
6. Le Court’s La Invidia has suffered damage over the centuries. It also has significant roughly-carved, unfinished portions. My sculpture is completely finished and damage-free. I have treated its back, sides, front, and top with equal fastidiousness.
7. I designed and fabricated Envy’s custom pedestal – a refined, multi-part ensemble – in concert with the sculpture. The pedestal permits the work to be examined from all sides. In Venice, the Le Court is installed high on a wall shelf and is difficult to view. Its back is not visible at all.
I want this work to pose questions, not dictate answers. While striving to induce a type of refined viewing, of connoisseurship, I also hope that my sculpture seduces. Ultimately, the analytical approach I have employed in the creation of my Masterpieces is no different from the one I used for many years to make sculptures based on models of my own creation. In an internet-linked world where almost everything from every period is available to everyone, my aim has been to build a new type of sculpture, redolent of its sources, but very much of our time.

– Barry X Ball

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