The Miami Rail/ Stuart Krimko on Ken Price

Ken Price’s retrospective is a barely posthumous homecoming. Born in Los Angeles in 1935 and long associated with this city, he died in 2012, months before the show opened. Over the course of his career, Price demonstrated how clay could function as a laboratory for advances in the ‘higher’ genres of painting and sculpture, despite the lack of respect accorded to it in the art world of the time. (The situation has since changed, perhaps largely due to his influence.) He allowed genres of all types to flow around and elevate one another, like the biomorphic blobs that make up his major works.

The show was designed by Price’s longtime friend Frank Gehry, who installed many of the sculptures, especially the late works with which the show begins and ends, on pedestals placed a few inches from the wall. As a result, these works could not be seen fully in the round, but the approach had the benefit of allowing them to be seen against clean white walls. This made it even more pleasurable to spend time looking at their painted surfaces, a significant source of their overall effect.

Another part of the enjoyable puzzle of spending time with Price’s sculptures is wondering how the artist worked his fingers, hands, and even arms inside them. ‘Sourpuss’ (2002), for instance, one of the sculptures on loan from Gehry’s own collection, is a mold- and rust-colored ghost of sweeping, bulbous forms. It reminded me of the engineering feats of contemporary architecture, executed on the intimate scale of the hearth. ‘Avocado Mountain’ (1959), meanwhile, is an intriguing example from early in Price’s career, when his work retained an overt connection to clay’s utilitarian history. It is a large jar that doesn’t work too hard to keep itself together, whose earthy greens and ochers reminded me of early Barnett Newman, or the drab transcendence of Clyfford Still.”

The previous selection previews an article written by Stuart Krimko for the Miami Rail about Ken Price and the recently-ended exhibit at LACMA titled Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection. Read the complete article here.

Founded and published by Nina Johnson-Milewski and edited by Hunter BraithwaiteThe Miami Rail is an editorially independent expansion of the Brooklyn Rail founded in 2012. Produced four times a year in print and online, the Miami Rail provides critical coverage of art and culture.