LAMA BLOG

Ken Price Biomorphic Sculpture

August 20, 2015

 

Los Angeles Modern Auctions is pleased to offer a colorful Ken Price sculpture in the upcoming October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction. Central to the California Clay Movement, Ken Price (1935-2012) was one of the Los Angeles artists whose experimentation in ceramic sculpture revolutionized the medium to high art. During a brief time at the Otis College of Art and Design (then the Los Angeles County Art Institute), Price studied under Peter Voulkos. The “hero of American ceramics” (according to Price), who championed abstract sculpture, was a significant influence. In the sixties, at a young age, Price established himself in the emerging art scene with solo shows at the famed Ferus Gallery, in the company of artists and friends such as Billy Al Bengston and Robert Irwin. Price described his early works as reminiscent of “mountain peaks, breasts, eggs, worms, worm trails, the damp undersides of things, intestines, veins and the like.”

 

Ken Price, Up Back, 2000

Ken Price, Up Back, 2000
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

By 2000 Price was making rounded forms, like the lot here, often labeled “biomorphic” or “organic;” seemingly abstract “creatures” who might crawl away. He used color as a tool, saying, “I wanted them to look like they were sort of made out of color.” Price developed a laborious technique resulting in these lavishly multi-colored shapes. The ceramics were fired, then layers upon layers of acrylic paint were applied. Price sanded the surface to reveal spots of the various colors underneath.

LAMA-Ken-Price-UpBack-Detail

Up Back, made in 2000, is similar to many of the biomorphic sculptures from the 2000s prominently exhibited in Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held September 16, 2012–January 6, 2013. Balls Congo (2003), Sourpuss (2002), and Whitey (2003), for example, are also speckled and rounded figures in “hand-scaled” (his term) size. After LACMA, in 2013 Ken Price Sculpture traveled to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the market for the first time, this piece was acquired directly from the artist.

 

LAMA-Ken-Price-UpBack-2

Ken Price, Up Back, 2000
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

From Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art:

On the market for the first time, this work is a stunning example of Price’s amorphous sculpture because it looks so distinctly different when viewed from various angles. Price liked popular culture and cartoons. From one side, the bulbous shape brings to mind Matt Groening’s animated show Futurama and the character Dr. John A. Zoidberg, while from another, I see Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. Coincidentally, Matt Groening was equally influenced by fine art. Futurama first aired in 1999. Perhaps this is a case of “life imitating art imitating life.”  

 

Ken Price, Up Back, 2000

Ken Price, Up Back, 2000
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

Barron, Stephanie. “Lumps, Bumbs, Grooves, and Curves: Fifty Years of Ken Price Sculpture.” Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective. By Stephanie Barron. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2012. 17, 31, and 34. Print.
Boucher, Brian. “The Last Testament of Ken Price.” Art In America. 07 March 2013. Web. 22 July 2015.
Smith, Roberta. “Ken Price, Sculptor Whose Artworks Helped Elevate Ceramics, Dies at 77.” Art & Design sec. The New York Times. 24 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 July 2015.
Tuchman, Phyllis. “Color Me Sculpture.” Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective. By Stephanie Barron. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2012. 171. Print.

 

Lot Information:
Ken Price
Up Back
2000
Fired and painted clay
10.5″ x 11″ x 9.75″
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000

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