The papers of enamelist and sculptor, Fred Uhl Ball, measure 1.0 linear feet and date from 1936 to 2002. The collection provides scattered documentation of Ball's career through biographical material, family photographs, photographs of artwork, and printed material. The collection also includes a small group of papers concerning Ball's father, ceramicist F. Carlton Ball, his mother, illustrator and enamelist Kathryn Uhl Ball, and his grandfather, silversmith George Uhl.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of enamelist and sculptor, Fred Uhl Ball, measure 1.0 linear feet and date from 1936 to 2002. The collection provides scattered documentation of Ball's career through biographical material, family photographs, photographs of artwork, and printed material. The collection also includes a small group of papers concerning Ball's father, ceramicist F. Carlton Ball, his mother, illustrator and enamelist Kathryn Uhl Ball, and his grandfather, silversmith George Uhl.The collection consists primarily of photographs and slide transparencies of Ball's artwork, but also includes photographs of Ball, his studio and some of his exhibitions. Papers and printed material include a vita compiled after Ball's death, news clippings providing an overview of his career, a folder of writings, and several items commemorating him.
The collection was assembled by Lois and David Warren after Ball's death and their original arrangement has been retained.
The papers are arranged into two series:
Series 1: Papers and Printed Material, 1936-2002, undated (box 1; 0.3 linear ft.)
Series 2: Photographs, 1945-1987, undated (box 1; 0.7 linear ft.)
Fred Uhl Ball was born in Oakland, California, in 1945. Ball's interest in enameling began in childhood, and was fostered by his mother, Kathryn Uhl, an illustrator and enamelist who taught life drawing at Mills College, and his father, a ceramicist, who was head of the art department at Mills.
Ball received his bachelor's and master's degrees in art from Sacramento State University. His first exhibition was a two-man show with Gerald Silva at the Barrios Gallery. His first national exhibition was held the same year, and his work was shown in Stuttgart, Germany, two years later. In the early 1970s Ball began experimenting with test tiles and assembling torch-fired enamels on thin copper foil into collage-like panels. He also experimented with using brass as a surface and with exposing white enamel to varying degrees of heat to produce a range of hues. In 1972, he published Experimental Techniques in Enameling (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold), which has since been considered the definitive text on enameling.
Ball was best known in Sacramento, where he lived and had his studio, for his large-scale public murals. In 1976 he joined the city's federally funded Comprehensive Employment and Training program (CETA) and created his first truly large-scale mural for the Sacramento Community Center. The mural won him critical acclaim and for the remainder of his career Ball would combine his personal work with additional commissions, and would continue to experiment with innovative enameling techniques and material in his sculptural collages. His Sacramento parking garage mural is one of the largest enameled murals ever attempted.
During the last decade of his life Ball was commissioned to create a number of large, site-specific works for corporate clients in the Sacramento area. In September of 1985 he was working on a fifty-foot copper mural, The Great Sacramento Valley, when he was assaulted at his studio. Ball died three months later at the age of forty from injuries sustained during the attack. The mural was completed by his mother and his associate, Bruce Beck, and was unveiled at Sacramento's Sutter General Hospital in December, 1986. A memorial retrospective of Ball's work, organized by the Creative Arts League, was held at the Crocker Art Museum from March to April of 1987.
At his death, Fred Uhl Ball's art passed to his mother, Kathryn, who died in 2000 without any heirs. Susan J. Willoughby, a close family friend, served as Trustee of the Kathryn Uhl Ball Trust. Unfortunately, most of Ball's papers were discarded after his death. The remainder of the collection was assembled by Lois and David Warren, and given to the Archives of American Art by Susan J. Willoughby in 2001. Several 2002 news clippings were added to the collection in 2002.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. research facility.
The Fred Uhl Ball papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.