Ken Price was a gentle creator of fantastical forms that defy categorization. He was born in Los Angeles, California in 1935 and died this past February 24, 2012 leaving a legion of artists who deeply respected him and while not the most famous name in sculpture, he certainly was one of the more quietly inventive ones. He is best known for his abstract shapes constructed from fired clay. Typically, they are not glazed, but intricately painted with multiple layers of bright acrylic paint and then sanded down to reveal the colors beneath. Ken Price lived and worked in both Venice, California and Taos, New Mexico.
This very splendid monograph is released as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art prepares to unveil the much-anticipated retrospective exhibition. The contributors to the book include the curator Stephanie Barron and Lauren Bergman, both responsible for the exhibition as it appears in the museum and in this book. The book significantly has contributions by such famous fellow artists as Frank Gehry, and written commentary by David Hickey, Phyllis Tuchman, and Malin Wilson-Powell and the photography is by Fredrik Nilsen. This strong team has created a book that is richly colorful and informative and serves the memory of Ken Price well.
Ken Price's works have been described as small, worldly, exquisitely finished abstract sculptures in glazed or painted clay that exploded the distinction between art and craft and established him as one of the outstanding artists of postwar America. With artists like Billy Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell and Craig Kauffman, Price was a progenitor of the Finish Fetish school of meticulous object-making that did so much to establish Los Angeles as an art capital. With artists from both coasts, including John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, John McCracken and Dan Flavin, he helped to usher vibrant color irrevocably into modern sculpture, often with the help of automobile lacquer and enamel. But Price's greatest achievement may have been to help foment a revolution in ceramics that was in many ways the true genesis of the Southern California art scene. Allied with the ceramic sculptors Peter Voulkos, who was briefly his teacher, and John Mason, he insisted on ceramics as high art -- an argument that Mr. Price, a man of few but well-chosen words, left to his sculptures to articulate. Critic/contributor David Hickey Dave Hickey called Price "the Glenn Gould of object-makers," comparing him to the pianist as someone who was "predisposed to step away from the spotlight, similarly driven by meticulous eccentricities and beguiled, as Gould was, by the full, intimate grandeur of his practice."
This is an impressive book that honors a quietly impressive artist of our time. Grady Harp, September 12