Kayne Griffin Corcoran is pleased to present the gallery’s second exhibition of work by the sculptor Ken Price (1935-2012). This exhibition will consist of one work Unit 6 first exhibited as part of Happy’s Curios, Price’s 1978 retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Over the course of his career, Ken Price crafted a body of revolutionary sculpture that challenged the conventional perception of ceramics, formerly dismissed as a primarily functional or commercial medium. Price’s work harkens back to the German Bauhaus movement, which sought to transcend rigid boundaries of artistic expression by marrying fine art with craft. Although best known for his late-career series of organically-shaped sculptures, it was his collection of Happy’s Curios, a tender and slyly humorous homage to the ceramics of the Southwest, that served as the subject of Price’s first major museum retrospective.
In 1970, having achieved some critical success in Los Angeles, Price settled in Taos, New Mexico with his wife Happy. Shortly thereafter, Price found himself drawn to the Mexican and Pre-Columbian ceramics sold in roadside stalls and local markets. Moved by the tradition’s rich trove of history and vitality, Price set to work on an homage to Mexican folk art that would eventually encompass cabinets of functional pottery, paintings, textiles, and a number of multimedia “Death Shrines.” Upon completion, the artist planned to open a storefront to house the mixed media installation, fondly named Happy's Curios.
In his recent eulogy for Price in the New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl attests that Happy’s Curios “revolutionized my views of ceramic art...though suggesting crude manufacture, they are paper-thin and feather light-- material reveries. They aren’t about skill but about how skill can serve intelligence and imagination.” Indeed, in his ceramic cups and compact “bombs,” housed in domestic cabinets built of white-washed wood, the artist stresses the intimacy of the object as well as its cultural precedent and the elegance of its functional design. Price’s concern with the holistic integrity of a work, so apparent in the layered colours and deliberate hollows of his later sculpture, can be traced to Happy’s Curios. In the meticulous application of traditional Oaxacan glazes to a jar’s sheltered lip, or in the expressive void traced by the handle of a mug, it is possible to see Price’s practiced and hidden hand.
Born in Los Angeles in 1935, Price took a B.F.A. from the University of Southern California before receiving an M.F.A. from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred in 1959. Since his first solo exhibitions at Los Angeles’ influential Ferus Gallery in the 1960s, Price has shown at such institutions as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Drawing Center in New York, the Getty Centre in Los Angeles, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Tate Museum in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His work can be found in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Following Price’s death in 2012, LACMA staged a major retrospective of his work, which subsequently travelled to the Nasher Sculpture Centre in Dallas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.