LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Ken Price

October 7, 2015

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

Charles Eames once said: ‘Take your pleasure seriously.’ I think Ken Price applied the same sort of philosophy to his work. There’s a sense of fun and a lightness of spirit in his ceramics and, very clearly, in his works on paper which will be on offer this Sunday.

Lot-178-1-SurfinginaStateofNature-Ken-Price-Oct-11-2015-Auction-Los-Angeles-Modern-Auctions-LAMA

Lot 178, Ken Price, Surfing in a State of Nature, 1999
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

Initially Price trained in drawing briefly at Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts). Throughout his career, he sketched for enjoyment and peace of mind. ‘For real pleasure, I’d like to draw all day and listen to jazz,’ he said. ‘My happiest day is when I have no business, visitors or phone and can draw.’ His drawings are often seductive, colorful, and cartoon-like illustrations that hint at disaster.

Lot-177-1-BigWaveII-Ken-Price-Oct-11-2015-Auction-Los-Angeles-Modern-Auctions-LAMA

Lot 177, Ken Price, Big Wave II, 1999
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

But Price is arguably the most important sculptor of clay in the late 20th century. He studied for a short time at the Otis College of Art and Design (formerly the Los Angeles County Institute of Art). The kilns at Otis became the launching pad for new ceramic artistry, in the studio headed by Peter Voulkos. Price, along with Voulkos’s other students and colleagues, helped foment this revolution–in which they raised ceramics to the level of fine art.

Ken Price: “Up Back” 2000

Lot 176, Ken Price, Up Back, 2000
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

With a gentler and more refined sensibility, Price later developed a personal visual vocabulary that shifted back and forth between geometric shapes and biomorphic forms with vibrantly colored surfaces. The lot here, Up Back, is biomorphic in a friendly way; almost like a living thing.

Ken Price: “Up Back” 2000

Lot 176, Ken Price, Up Back, 2000 (detail)
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

And he was so meticulous. Imagine applying coat after coat of differently colored acrylic paints as little bumps and accretions build up on the surface. Then sanding and sanding the piece to attain a perfect smoothness that reveals rich, layered pools of color. It’s painstaking work that requires infinite patience and skill.

Ken Price: “Up Back” 2000

Lot 176, Ken Price, Up Back, 2000
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

Works in this scale with such a presence are rarely seen on the auction market. Most of Price’s sculptures of this stature are either in great private or museum collections. Bidders should understand that opportunities like this are exceptional. I certainly don’t expect to have another chance to present a Ken Price piece of this quality any time soon.

 

 

Lot Information:

Lot 178
Ken Price
Surfing in a State of Nature
1999
Acrylic, ink, and graphite on paper
Signed and dated in graphite lower left sheet; title inscribed with date in felt-tip marker frame verso
Composition: 6.25″ x 7.5″; Sheet: 7.25″ x 8.5″; Frame: 11″ x 13″
Together with copy of The Surfer’s Journal
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Illustrated: “Greenwater and Biomorphs: The Art of Ken Price.” The Surfer’s Journal. J. Gunnin. Oct. 2005. 86.
Estimate: $25,000 – $30,000

Lot 177
Ken Price
Big Wave II
1999
Acrylic, ink, and graphite on paper
Signed and dated in graphite lower left sheet; titled and dated in felt-tip marker frame verso
Composition: 5″ x 7.5″; Sheet (vis.): 7.5″ x 9.5″; Frame: 11″ x 13″
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $17,000 – $20,000

Lot 176
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, 2005)
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000

Leave a Reply

BID AND FOLLOW ON THE LAMA APP