Ken Price Sculpture; review by Garth Clark

Garth Clark: Originally from South Africa,gained an MFA at Royal College of Art. With partner,  Del Vecchio began in New York City and Los Angeles as Garth Clark Gallery in 1981. Taught ceramic art history, presented over 600 exhibitions, and is a leading resource respected internationally for modern and contemporary ceramic art, serving a worldwide audience of museums and collectors.

Find podcast of lecture he gave in Portland, Oregon: “How Art Envy Killed the Craft Movement”

Excerpts reproduced from Crafts Magazine, no. 239 Nov/Dec 12:
…This retrospective is kiln-hot and blazing with colour, with works that glow like embers plucked from the fire and forms emulating the flow of molten lava. It is a pyrotechnic display that is shockingly beautiful for those who do not already know the work, an affirmation for those who do… Though no artist was more dedicated to his core medium, this was not the craft-rags to art-riches scenario. Price lived his whole career in the fine arts, which should have given him an edge…Yet the resistance to his medium was palpable. Aside from curator Stephanie Barron’s dedication, working on this project for five years, academia can take scant credit for his beatification…

However, while the art sings, the installation – designed by architect Frank Gehry- is underwhelming. Price’s work is modest in scale, often tiny – it only grew beyond 60 cm high after 2000 – with jewel-like colours and surface intensely detailed. To view them properly in Gehry’s glaring all-white space is difficult, to say the least. Panels of darker colour would be a huge improvement. The forest of ugly pedestals and soaring white columns create a visual mess. Most of Price’s small cups are against a wall, with only one viewpoint, too far from the viewer to read their surfaces. The preciousness of Price’s work called for Cartier not Bilbao. Nevertheless, there are highpoints.

Wittily, Gehry has built a giant romm-sized version of Price’s classic wood-framed 60 x 60 cm glass box, in which his smaller works are installed… Worst treated, by contrast, are his Happy’s Curios series, hidden in two cramped corners.

Barron’s role is workmanlike, but lacks flair. One hoped for fresh epiphanies about Price’s art, and if they are present they’re lost in the incohate installation….

However, there is no denying Barron’s remarkable scholarship and passion, contained between the covers of the accompanying book celebrating Price’s genius…

Criticism of the installation aside, try and see the show in L.A. … there is something to be said for seeing it at LACMA, surrounded by the car-dominated LA scene, the fiesta palette of Mexican culture, and the surfer milieu of Venice Beach. This adds a home-grown frisson to appreciating Price’s piquant oevre.

Additional resources:
Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective Barron, Stephanie
Notes from the curator

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