White Room: Anthony Ballard
in collaboration with Fountain House GalleryJune 11–July 25, 2015 320 West 13th Street White Room
White Columns is proud to present a solo exhibition by Anthony Ballard (1945-2008.) The exhibition has been organized in collaboration with Fountain House Gallery – a New York-based organization and exhibition space that supports and promotes the work of artists with mental illness.
Anthony Ballard’s exhibition consists of more than thirty drawings made in the late 1970s and early 1980s using Rapidograph ink pens. The drawings include a selection of Ballard’s sexual tableaux, his later abstract works, and a selection of his irreverent cartoon strips. Ballard began drawing with Rapidograph pens after purchasing a second-hand set for 25 cents at a church flea market. Typically used for architectural or technical drawing, Ballard worked slowly and meticulously, spending two years perfecting the facility and techniques that would enable him to create his signature drawings. He used round plates, and other household objects from the kitchen cupboard, to draw interlocking and overlapping circles, creating an increasingly complex visual armature into which he choreographed scenes of erotic interactions.
Ballard’s series of erotic drawings was made in the very early 1980s. A biographical account supplied by Fountain House Gallery suggests that Ballard was: “The product of a Catholic academy primary education, and as a young man he developed into a self-taught artist and poet, as well as a bon vivant and ladies’ man. Throughout his life he remained fascinated by the erotic, but his interest was not prurient. As expressed in his artwork, sexually charged imagery is counterbalanced by wit and observation of the humanity of which sexuality is but one captivating component.” Ballard’s sexual drawings depict a sexual landscape just prior to the advent of AIDS. The drawing’s formal complexity – with Ballard’s highly sophisticated use of cinematic-like techniques of creating establishing shots, close-ups, etc. – amplifies the complexities of the erotic imagination at play in these tableaux.
After completing the series of erotic drawings in the early 1980s, Ballard totally abandoned the use of the human figure and moved on to create wholly abstract drawings, a number of which are included here, and which would define his visual style through the mid-1990s. Still employing the same formal, complex visual structures as his erotic work, in these later drawings Ballard eschewed all sexual imagery in favor of more fluid and purely optical effects. Eventually Ballard had to
stop working in such a meticulously fashion. The medication prescribed for his schizoaffective disorder eventually caused hand tremors so severe that he could no longer summon the dexterity required to work with the unforgiving Rapidograph pens. For the remainder of his life, Ballard focused on writing and performing poetry while exploring making freehand paintings in oil pastel.
White Columns would like to thank Ariel Willmott and everyone at Fountain House and Fountain House Gallery for their enthusiastic collaboration on this project. We would also like to extend out gratitude to Anthony Ballard’s extended family for their support of this exhibition and helping us bring Anthony’s work to wider attention. To learn more about Fountain House Gallery visit: www.fountaingallerynyc.com. To learn more about Fountain House visit: www.fountainhouse.org
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