The full evolution of Bill’s artistic creation reveals that several formal ideas recur: the arch, the bridge, and the virile, celebratory thrust of Don Quixote’s lance. Underlying it all is the grand theme of Bill’s search for an almost impossible synthesis between the tactile process of free modeling, the expressive gesture and the craft of welding sheets of metal.
Though born in Los Angeles, Barrett grew up in Indiana when his father, also an artist, began teaching at Notre Dame. Barrett attended high school in South Bend and in 1959 held his first one-man show of sculpture at the South Bend Center for the Arts. Over the next five decades, Barrett distinguished himself as an abstract expressionist sculptor and painter, crediting such greats as Henry Moore, Rodin, David Smith and Picasso as influences. Today, his work can be found across the country and around the world.
Filing up space is much more exacting than carving into mass. His largest pieces, towering over thirty-two feet and weighing thousands of pounds, rest as lightly on the ground as acrobats. His more intimately scaled pieces move indoors and assume command of their surroundings while remaining approachable and empathetic. Every sculpture invites the mind in for a tour of ideas and a high-level discussion of truth and beauty. Remarkably, Barrett is able to create the most calligraphic, balletic forms in a demanding medium
Barrett has kept up a staggering schedule of one-person and invitational group shows for over forty years, beginning with the San Francisco Museum of Art in California and the Whitney Annual in New York, and crisscrossing the nation and the world in the decades since. After more than forty years as a prominent New York artist, he established a second residence in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1988. He now divides his time between the two, maintaining his prodigious output from studios in both locations. His reputation has expanded also, and today his work hangs in the permanent collections and fine arts museums all over the Unites States, Asia and Europe. Bill Barrett occupies his own space solidly, pushing out the parameters of his life, sculpting his environment, and asserting his presence as an international artist.
Creative change is always important for me, from one shape to the next. Surprise is important. Taking a chance while searching for truth is a condition that I strive for when starting a new work of art. It is the beginning of the journey and my obligation. You take a chance and you never know where the journey will take you.
It’s okay to see what you need to see, says the artist. “Abstract art is like music in that when you listen to a song, everyone has different ideas about it. feels different emotions because of it. Even the same person listening to a piece at different times will feel differently. That’s true of abstract art. As a viewer, you can interpret it for yourself as well as seeing what the artist made. That’s what I like about abstract art; you get a chance to participate.”