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LACMA Exhibition Review | Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective

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Ken Price (1935-2012) is one of the great American sculptors of the last half-century. Born and raised in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, Price began making ceramics as a student at Santa Monica Community College, yet it was Peter Voulkos, his professor at Otis College of Art and Design in the late 1950s, who was pivotal to Price’s early development. Price initially experimented with the possibilities of ceramics as a medium, producing large-scale sculptures. Later, he would break away from Voulkos and the Otis studio by experimenting with smaller, eccentric clay forms painted in striking color combinations that had an other-worldly quality. Price was a member of the artistic circle that exhibited at the Ferus Gallery, where he had his first solo exhibition in 1960.

Ken Price created remarkable and innovative works for over fifty years that have redefined contemporary sculpture practice. A full retrospective of his career is now showing at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective” was designed by architect Frank O. Gehry, who enjoyed a lifelong friendship with Price. Gehry worked with Price and LACMA Curator Stephanie Barron for two and a half years on the retrospective before Price’s death in February 2012.

Los Angeles Times Art Critic Christopher Knight writes,

“‘Zizi’ is among the artist’s final works–Price died in February at 77–but the sculpture is placed in the first room. Curator Stephanie Barron has installed the show in reverse chronology. It starts in the present and works backward — from the voluptuous works begun in the 1990s through the architectural objects of the ’80s and ’70s, the elaborate cabinet installations of the early 1970s, the brightly colored “eggs” of the ’60s, which balance precariously on the narrow end of the ovoid form, and more. The reverse format is unusual for a retrospective but serves an effective purpose here. Price’s materials, glazed or painted clay, virtually demand it.”

Richard Lacavo’s review titled “Price is Right” for Time Magazine states:

“Every so often the world wakes up and decides that an artist who’s been around for a while, and is even widely admired, is actually something more–like indispensable. This happened 25 years ago with the British painter Lucian Freud, thanks to a retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington that made everyone aware of how much was at stake in his every loaded brushstroke. It’s happening again right now with the Los Angeles artist Ken Price. The new retrospective of his witty and mysterious ceramic sculpture is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).”

Read the LA Times article, here; the Time Magazine article, here.

An excerpt from a recent Huffington Post article states, “[T]hese pieces confuse and repulse, while drawing the viewer in for more. Price seems to be fascinated by contradiction, ying and yang, and the push and pull of aversion and attraction.”

The retrospective runs through January 6, 2013 at LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles, Calif.