Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective
Nasher Sculpture Center
February 9 through May 12, 2012
The Nasher Sculpture Center is pleased to present Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective, a groundbreaking exhibition featuring almost 100 works by the prolific ceramic artist, Ken Price (1935-2012). On view at the Nasher from February 9 through May 12, 2013, the exhibition traces the development of Price’s sculptural practice from his luminously glazed ovoid forms to his suggestive, molten-like slumps, positioning him within the larger narrative of modern American sculpture. This sculptural retrospective honors the late artist’s creativity, originality, and revolutionary art practice.
“This brilliant exhibition demonstrates conclusively Ken Price’s position as one of the most important sculptors of the past half century,” notes Nasher Sculpture Center Director, Jeremy Strick. “Devoting himself to the sometimes maligned medium of ceramics, this extraordinarily inventive artist created a unique body of work characterized by bright, unusual color, surprising, often sensual form, and a sense of freedom and play undergirded by formal rigor and an unstinting devotion to finish and detail. Price has proven an influential figure for generations of artists, and that influence has been a significant factor in the explosion of interest in ceramics notable among younger artists. Perhaps more surprisingly, his often diminutive work has proved a powerful influence to contemporary architects. For those familiar with Ken Price’s work, as well as those discovering it for the first time, Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective will offer astonishment and delight.”
The exhibition is organized by Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s senior curator of modern art Stephanie Barron and is designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Frank O. Gehry, a close friend of Price’s since the 1960s. Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and, after its presentation at the Nasher Sculpture Center, will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (June 18 – September 22, 2013.)
Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective moves the artist’s work outside of the realm of craft and into the dialogue of contemporary sculpture. To situate his works within a sculptural context, the exhibition is installed in reverse chronology. A rich selection of work from 1959 to 2011 highlights each of the major styles of his prolific career including slumps, rocks, geometrics, cups, eggs, and mounds. While Price tended to progress in loose series, the exhibition reviews his career in a broader and yet more integrated way, establishing connections and linkages across the years, rather than in simple series. The exhibition also includes displays of two of the units from his 1970s project Happy’s Curios. Named after his wife Happy, Happy’s Curios were comprised of large cabinets, filled with between eight and twenty or more ceramics mimicking the style of Mexican folk pottery.
The work from 1995 to 2011 highlights sculptures from the last years of his life. In this period, Price began a new series of mottled sculptures, for which he has become most well-known. The work’s surface is composed of roughly seventy layers of acrylic paint that he painstakingly sanded, each stratum uncovered as he varied the pressure of his sanding. The result is a lyrical composition of colors held together in a layered arrangement that is anthropomorphic. Eleven works on paper and two large scale sculptures from 2011 to 2012 are also included in the exhibition.
About Ken Price
Born in Los Angeles, Ken Price received his BFA from the University of Southern California in 1956 and his MFA from the famed New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1959. In the late 1950s, at the Los Angeles County Art Institute (the Otis College of Art and Design), Price’s ceramics professor, Peter Voulkos, encouraged the artist to create work that transcended the traditional boundaries of the medium.
Price’s first exhibitions from 1960 to 1964 were at the Ferus Gallery, sales of which allowed Price to travel throughout Japan in 1962. Price’s involvement in Ferus placed his work in dialogue with other artists, including Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and Billy Al Bengston, with whom he shared a studio for some time. His suggestively oozing eggs from this period, modest in scale by comparison with prevailing abstract expressionist work, reflect his lifelong interest in precision and finish.
In the early 1970s Price moved with his family to Taos, New Mexico, where the predominant Mexican folk aesthetic inspired him to embark on Happy’s Curios (1972-77). After the Curios, Price’s work in the 1980s became highly colorful and architectural, and returned to the more intimate scale of his eggs and cups. He explored differences between surfaces that were highly polished and roughhewn, and experimented with the impact of planes of color colliding to create forms. Building upon the advancements he had made in the 1960s, he focused on the articulation of architectural forms through color and shape.
From 1991 to 2001, Price was a professor of ceramics at USC. It was during this time the hard edges of his sculptures melted into globular lumps and blobs, and he developed his method of layering several coats of paint and then sanding them down to reveal each layer. In 2002 Price and his wife returned to Taos, where they built a new home and an attached studio. Five years later, Price was diagnosed with cancer and, after going through unsuccessful treatments in Los Angeles, moved permanently back to Taos, where he remained until his death on February 24, 2012.
The 288-page catalogue, Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective, is co-published by LACMA and DelMonico Books/Prestel, and features essays by LACMA exhibition curator Stephanie Barron, Frank Gehry, Dave Hickey, and Phyllis Tuchman, as well as a compilation of interviews with the artist from 1980 to 2011 by MaLin Wilson-Powell. An anthology of texts from 1963 to 1970 and an illustrated chronology reproducing family photographs, gallery announcements, installation shots, and other archival material alongside the exhibition checklist situate and contextualize his practice. The catalogue introduces extraordinary new photography of all the sculptures in the exhibition, commissioned from Fredrik Nilsen.
This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was made possible through major grants from the LLWW Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts,. Generous support for the catalogue was provided by The Shifting Foundation and Friends of Contemporary Ceramics.
About the Nasher Sculpture Center
Open since 2003 and located in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, the Nasher Sculpture Center is home to one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculptures in the world, the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, featuring more than 300 masterpieces by Calder, Giacometti, Matisse, Picasso, Rodin, and more. The longtime dream of the late Raymond and Patsy Nasher, the museum was designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano in collaboration with landscape architect Peter Walker.
Hailed by the “USA Today” as one of the great sculpture gardens where art enhances nature, the roofless museum seamlessly integrates the indoor galleries with the outdoor spaces creating a museum experience unlike any other in the world. On view in the light-filled galleries and amid the landscaped grounds are rotating works from the Collection, as well as blockbuster exhibitions and one-of-a-kind installations by the most celebrated artists of our times. In addition to the indoor and outdoor gallery spaces, the Center contains an auditorium, education and research facilities, a cafe, and a store.
The Nasher brings the best of contemporary culture to Dallas through special programs designed to engage visitors, including artist talks, lecture programs, contemporary music concerts, educational classes and exclusive member events.
The Nasher Sculpture Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm and until 11 pm for special events, and from 10 am to 5 pm on the first Saturday of each month. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for students, and free for members and children 12 and under, and includes access to special exhibitions. For more information, visit www.NasherSculptureCenter.org.