LONDON — An exhibition honoring one of the monoliths of talent within the world of contemporary ceramic art is currently underway at Hauser & Wirth, London. Ken Price: A Survey of Sculptures and Drawings, 1959 – 2006 opened December 9, 2016 and will run through February 4, 2017. Can a body of work that spans nearly 50 years be important for the contemporary dialogue? Art Newspaper thinks so:
Above image: Installation views. Photography by Alex Delfanne, courtesy of the gallery.
Forget virtual reality, one of the biggest trends of 2016 has been the rise of ceramics. From Betty Woodman to Gillian Lowndes, artists working with clay have been ubiquitous this year, but few names are as synonymous with the humble medium as Ken Price. The first major UK show since the 1970s, Ken Price: a Survey of Sculptures and Drawings, 1959–2006 (until 4 February), fills Hauser & Wirth’s two Mayfair spaces, bringing together the late artist’s bulbous ceramics with his lesser-known works on paper. A surprise hit are Price’s drawings of Los Angeles that fuse Japanese prints with Pop art.
The exhibition is a treat for those of us who enjoy Price’s hand behind the pen just as much as his hand behind the wheel. The selection of Price’s drawings is top-notch, according to Elly Parsons of Wallpaper*
Despite the broad spectrum, each sculpture and drawing bares Price’s signature: bold colours and otherworldly shapes, drawing on functional ceramic influences mixed with a contemporary, popular-culture edge. Take Happy’s Curios for instance – a series of drawings and sculptures that Price dedicated the best part of a decade to, named after his wife. This collection invokes the traditional crafts of Taos, New Mexico, where Price and his family moved in the seventies from Los Angeles, mingling an LA vocabulary of billboards, posters and advertising. The eighties saw Price edge to a more graphic aesthetic, which he continued to refine until his death, all the while continuing to develop his language of fine- and folk art.
The gallery’s description of Price’s career is exhaustive and full of fascinating information about the artist’s life. We suggest reading this in its entirety. Coming from the Southwest, we were especially interested in this portion of Price’s development:
The series Happy’s Curios – named for the artist’s wife – was created between 1972 and 1977 and invokes the traditional crafts of Taos, New Mexico. In 1971, Price and his family relocated from Los Angeles to Taos and the move had a profound impression on his oeuvre. Restricted to an indigenous palette and effecting folk patterns, works from this period are deliberately timeless, evoking the spirit of the region in an unassuming, hand-held object. A long time admirer of artisanal Mexican pottery, the artist first became familiar with the genre during surfing trips to Southern California in the 1950s. Price and his friends made regular visits to the border city of Tijuana, where craftsmen from the Tonalá and Oaxaca regions of Mexico came to sell their earthenware. In New Mexico Price began to integrate the vernacular of his new locale into his practice, interrupting notions of cultural supremacy and continuing his interrogation of established sculptural modes. He said, ‘Coming to New Mexico influenced my work right away. Just before we left LA I’d been making some cups, so I tried to incorporate the New Mexico landscape into that idiom.’
Do you love or loathe this exhibition of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.