LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Ken Price

October 13, 2019

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ken Price’s work remains emblematic of the rebel impulses that have long motivated California art. Drawing influence from the creative zeitgeist of the 1950s, in which Asian philosophies, free-form jazz, and Abstract Expressionism turned tradition on its head, Price made a name for himself working in the Folk Art traditions that had long fallen victim to the colonial prejudices of the Western art establishment. In the late 1950s, Price began experimenting with ceramic cups, a stark contrast to the severe style and scale of his teacher and mentor Peter Volkous. In Price’s assessment, the intimate, utilitarian nature of the cup form rendered it a fitting “vehicle for ideas.” In a multitude of shapes and sizes, Price would return to the essential vessel shape over and over again throughout the many decades of his career. The Price works included in the October 20, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction offer a delightful look at the vibrant diversity that arose within this evolving structural study.

Inspired by the pottery of Mexican curio shops, Price created a variety of drinking mugs in the early 1970s. Both Untitled (Cup) (lot 249) and Untitled (Cup) (lot 250), present Price’s early investigations of bulbous and geometric shapes. Before they found a place in esteemed private and public collections, cups like these were casually “traded” by the artist with friends and colleagues, underscoring the lighthearted context in which these ultimately rigorous objects were first considered. While Price gradually stopped producing recognizable ‘cups’, the vessel structure remained a productive subject for the artist. The Blush (lot 248) demonstrates Price’s gravitation towards more purely abstract sculptures. His adoption of acrylic paint, in the mid-1980s, allowed the artist to work with more complex color relationships and notably changed the character of his work. Nevertheless, the container form continued to provide Price with a visual vocabulary for expressing his career-long interest in broader interior and exterior dualities. Described as a “collision of raw and refined surfaces,” Price’s meteorite-like sculptures, such as The Blush, exercise the tension between chaos and order that charged his core practice of exploring “the damp underside of things.” 


Lot Information:

Lot 248
Ken Price
The Blush
1994
Acrylic on fired ceramic
Together with copy of original invoice from L.A. Louver Gallery dated June 15, 1994
14″ x 12.75″ x 17.25″; (36 x 32 x 44 cm)
Provenance:  L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California; Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above, 1994)

Estimate: $100,000–150,000
October 20, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction


Lot 249
Ken Price
Untitled (Cup)
c. 1972
Glazed ceramic
3.25″ x 5.25″ x 3.125″; (8 x 13 x 8 cm)
Provenance:  Patricia Faure, Los Angeles, California; Thence by descent

Estimate: $4,000–6,000
October 20, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 250
Ken Price
Untitled (Cup)
c. 1972
Glazed ceramic
Together with contact sheet and three photo negatives
3.375″ x 5.5″ x 3.25″; (8 x 14 x 8 cm)
Provenance:  Patricia Faure, Los Angeles, California; Thence by descent

Estimate: $4,000–6,000
October 20, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

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