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  • Video

    Ken Price Steeps [360° view]

  • Provenance

    L.A. Louver, Venice, California

  • Exhibited

    ‘Sculpture from 2004’, L.A. Louver, Venice, California, January 21 - February 19, 2005

  • Literature

    David Pagel, ‘Price’s Resplendent Sculptures Pack a Punch’, The Los Angeles Times, February 11, 2005, illustrated E22
    Rupert Deese, ‘Objects to Live With: Ken Price at Chinati’, Chinati Foundation Newsletter, vol. 10, Marfa, October 2005, p. 48 for ‘The Bulge’ (2004), a related stepped form

  • Catalogue Essay

    It’s difficult to top Ken Price’s own words about his own work—energy, life, magic—and very hard indeed to translate his forms to the page. “Why give up ambiguity for naming and categorizing,” he once said (2). Yes, but his creatures all have names: Steeps, The Bulge, The Bomb, Ultra-Purple, Mountain Balls. Not to worry, ambiguity remains at the dark center of all vivid personalities: indefinite motivations, unlimited appetites, hidden depths. Categories can’t pin them down.

    Why then is Ken Price hemmed in by a design auction? Two of his late sculptures appear in these pages along with works by peers John Mason and Ron Nagle, among others. The Design department at Phillips de Pury & Company specializes in contemporary ceramic art, of which these artists led the pack. Price, of course, leapt over that narrow category and obscured his chosen medium under paint. As Rupert Deese noted, “…the clay is nowhere to be seen.” (3) Price famously coated his coarse, bisque-fired forms with layer upon layer of acrylic polymer paint, each a different color. Then he sanded them back to reveal the motley strata— the geology of Ken Price. Suffice it to say, he wasn’t only a ceramic artist or a sculptor, he was a painstaking painter, and a scientist too.

    Price pushed clay out of bounds; that is to say, he got weird. As fellow Ferus Gallery alumnus Ed Ruscha stated, “Those eggs and dome-shaped ceramics were psycho-erotic. They made you scratch your palms.” (4) A hasty glance at Price’s work may make you itch. Despite his outpourings and effusive eruptions—all those inhibitions—Price wasn’t looking for cheap thrills. His earnest desire outstripped animal lust and lumps. From an early point in his career, when he began to coat his ceramics in automotive enamel, he revealed a greater ambition. “I’m trying for an organic fusion of color with surface and form…If the viewers can touch the pieces, and feel how smooth they are, it helps create the illusion that they’re made out of color like things in nature are.” (5) In his search for pure color, in his desire to touch “the things in nature,” Price held out for a deeper union.

    Phillips de Pury & Company is proud to sponsor the Public Programs for “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), September 16, 2012-January 6, 2013.

    1 “Ken Price: A Talk with Slides”, Chinati Foundation Newsletter, vol. 10, October 2005, p. 23
    2 Mary-Kay Lombino and Constance Glenn, ed. Ken Price: Small is Beautiful, exh. cat. University Art Museum, Long Beach, 2002, p. 2
    3 Rupert Deese, “Objects to Live With: Ken Price at Chinati”, Chinati Foundation Newsletter, vol. 10, October 2005, p. 41
    4 Nick Stillman, “The Blobs Aren’t Talking”, The New York Times, March 3, 2010, n.p.
    5 Tom Collins, “Ken Price: Sculpture from the Late 1980s”, Ken Price, exh. cat., Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, 2008, p. 4

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE CALIFORNIA COLLECTION

70

‘Steeps’

2004
Acrylic on fired ceramic.
10 3/4 x 16 1/2 x 13 1/2 in (27.3 x 41.9 x 34.3 cm)

Estimate
$60,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $98,500

Design

15 June 2012
New York