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Fred Mason (aka Frederick Charles Mason)

American, b. 1938

Superball
1960

Assemblage of wood, basket, fabric, doll parts, dried flowers, mirror, and ball
26 x 20.5 x 5 in. (66.04 x 52.07 x 12.7 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation
2004.6

Chemist Norman Stingley invented the Super Ball, a toy made of a compressed synthetic rubber that was first marketed in 1965. Superball is also an artwork by Fred Mason. This assemblage piece includes baby doll parts (various arms on the top and legs and feet on the bottom), hair, feathers, some cloth, and an oval picture frame attached by wire and straw.

Superball could have been made at any time from the early twentieth century to the present day. The one thing that does indicate a specific time, however, is the actual Super Ball in the bottom of the frame.

Strangely, I have seen at least three photographs of this piece, and one did not show the ball. The beauty of assemblage, where the material might have come from a trash heap, is that one can find some form of bliss in the most unlikely materials and locations. Discarded objects are given new life. Oddly enough, if the Super Ball wasn’t in the artwork, this piece would be bleak, but adding that one object turns it into something humorous, though dark. It’s the one thing that doesn’t really t in, the only object that maintains its original design and purpose. The dolls have been dismantled, the hair and feathers are detached from the body or fabric they were part of, and the oval frame has had material added to it. Among these elements, the ball sticks out like the mustache Marcel Duchamp added to the Mona Lisa’s face. It can be seen as a discarded toy, like the doll’s limbs, or as a bit of technology that was fairly advanced at the time, placed in juxtaposition to doll parts from an earlier era.

Tosh Berman


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