Fred Uhl Ball Biography
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.
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