Thursday, April 18, 2024

Artist’s Fun Sculptures Marry Abstract and Figural

The sculptures and paintings of Bill Barrett hug the border of abstract and figural. Suffused with bold angles, wry humor and the inspired elasticity of animation, they jump off their canvases, appearing to always be in motion.

Barrett has returned to the Boca Raton’s Elaine Baker Gallery for his second solo show at the respected space. Barrett will be in attendance tonight (Jan. 12) for the opening of the show, which runs through Feb. 4. He took a few minutes to chat with Boca Raton about his artistic process.

Do you have a blueprint, either mental or physical, of your sculptures before you begin them, and do they ever take different or divergent approaches during the process of creating them?

I don’t usually have a blueprint in mind ahead of time, except to know whether it’s going vertically and horizontally. And as I start making the symbols, I let my mind wander, sort of like doodling. You put things together as you go. As things begin to take shape, I criticize and evaluate what I’m doing. I put more down or take some away and keep an action to what I’m doing at all times. I react to what I put down. In my paintings, I’ll put down marks, cover them up and put in new marks. There’s always some action going on.

Your bio says you’re influenced by dance. Explain the connection between dance and your sculptures, and the influence one art form has on the other.

I’m influenced more by music, mostly. I used to go to dance concerts, but not recently. It’s mostly chamber and classical music. Just recently, a musician was commissioned to create a chamber music piece based on one of my paintings. The piece was created for an Iowa piano quartet to play. They had an initial concert a couple months ago. The name of the piece was “Point/Counterpoint.” We will have the music playing at the gallery. It’s a 10-minute piece. It’s fun to have a musician react to my artwork, because I’m always the one reacting to their creations. It was very thrilling to me.

Your paintings tend to have similar curves, angles and contours to your sculptures, as if the sculptures were three-dimensional representations of the shapes on your canvases. Do you approach each medium from a similar artistic place?

Yes, I think so. The way I was describing it earlier, I react to the kind of work I put down. I take a surrealistic approach, and I use classical cubist ideas to cement them so that they look volumetric on a sculpture or have flat, colorful expressions on the canvases.

A lot of your pieces would look like pure abstraction were it not for the sometimes humorous titles indicating a more familiar shape.

I like to play around a little bit. I try and make work that’s not depressing or stuff that’s funny to look at and fun to be involved in. I don’t like work that causes negative reactions.

Is there anything else you want people to take away from your exhibition?

Have fun.

“Bill Barrett: Paintings and Sculpture” is at Elaine Baker Gallery, 608 Banyan Trail, Boca Raton. Call 561/241-3050 or visit View many more of Barrett’s pieces on the website.

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