LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Ken Price

May 16, 2016

“The two most powerful sizes,” Ken Price once wrote, “are very small and very large.” LAMA’s May 22, 2016 Auction of Modern Art & Design features examples of both from Price, a fine selection demonstrating the artist’s creative range.

Ken Price L.A. Riot 1994
Lot 84, Ken Price, L.A. Riot (1994)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

On the small side is Specimen (Lot 87), a tiny painted ceramic pellet in a vial. Price liked to make these for friends and family members to carry around in their pockets as a sort of talisman, but also as a way of staying close to them. As for large, there is a plate from Price’s Happy’s Curios project (Lot 85) in the May 22, 2016 auction. For nearly six years in the 1970s, Price made scores of pieces including plates, mugs, vases, and bowls, painting them with motifs depicting Southwestern life in homage to the Mexican pottery prevalent around his home in New Mexico. He envisioned installing these pieces in an actual curio shop named for his wife, Happy. The logistics, however, proved onerous, and the plan never came to fruition.

Lot 87, Ken Price, Specimen (1962)
Lot 87, Ken Price, Specimen (1962)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

The Price work that affects me most is L.A. Riot (Lot 84), a 1994 drawing in ink and acrylic on paper. Drawing was always central to Price’s ceramics practice. “Drawing,” he once said, “is a way of seeing what you’re thinking about.” As a sculptor, what Price thought about were space, proportion, and dimension. L.A. Riot investigates scale: a scene of violence on the television screen juxtaposed against real occurrences visible through the window, the space of the room mediating between the two. What Price creates on paper occupies, conceptually, three-dimensions.

Ken Price, Mexican Arts/Happy's Curios (1978)
Lot 85, Ken Price, Mexican Arts/Happy’s Curios (1978)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Of course, L.A. Riot also brings me back to those grim days in 1992 when we in Los Angeles witnessed events both on TV and in real life. It is to Ken Price’s credit that he could create from those fraught times a calm, meditative, and engaging work of art.

086, Ken Price, Heat Wave (1995)
Lot 86, Ken Price, Heat Wave (1995)

May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

 

Lot Information:

Lot 84
Ken Price
L.A. Riot
1994
Ink and acrylic on paper
Signed and dated in graphite lower right margin of sheet
LAMA would like to thank the Ken Price Studio for their assistance in cataloguing this work
Composition: 10.5″ x 8.25″
Sheet: 15″ x 12″
Frame: 24″ x 20.5″
This drawing was reproduced as a plate in the Ken Price portfolio of screenprints Heat Wave (1995) with text by Charles Bukowski

Provenance: Modernism Inc., San Francisco, California (acquired directly from the artist)

Exhibited: “Ken Price: Heat Wave – Works on Paper,” Modernism Inc., San Francisco, November 2-December 23, 1995

Estimate: $20,000–$30,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 85
Ken Price
Mexican Arts/Happy’s Curios
1978
Painted and glazed ceramic
Inscribed “Mexican Arts/Happy’s Curios” along the edges of the plate
LAMA would like to thank the Ken Price Studio for their assistance in cataloguing this work
11″ diameter

Provenance: Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, California; Modernism Inc., San Francisco, California

Estimate: $8,000–$12,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 86
Ken Price
Heat Wave
1995
The complete portfolio comprising 15 color screenprints on Arches paper #128 of 170
Published by Black Sparrow Graphic Arts, Santa Rosa; printed by T.J. Owens, Healdsburg Four prints signed and dated in graphite with edition and artist’s/publisher’s blind stamps; facsimile of artist’s signature on justification page with edition inscribed in red ink Text by Charles Bukowski
Together with original packaging
Sheets each: 14″ x 11″ (some with alternate orientation)
Portfolio case: 1″ x 12.625″ x 15″

Estimate: $4,000–$6,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 87
Ken Price
Specimen
1962
Painted ceramic encased in glass vial with cork stopper
LAMA would like to thank the Ken Price Studio for their assistance in cataloguing this work
Ceramic: .625″ x .125″ diameter
Vial: 2.125″ x .5″ diameter
Ken Price was known to quote artist Joseph Cornell, who stated, “tiny is the last refuge of the enormous.”

Provenance: Private Collection, California (acquired directly from the artist, 1962)

Estimate: $3,000–$5,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

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