Ken Price (1935-2012)
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Ken Price (1935-2012)


Ken Price (1935-2012)
fired and painted clay
13 3/8 x 13 x 13in. (34 x 33 x 33cm.)
Executed in 2005
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, Florida.
James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Ken Price Sculpture and Drawings, 1962-2006, 2006 (illustrated in colour, pp. 36-37).
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Alexandra Werner
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Lot Essay

‘[Clay’s] relation to primordial expression —its source in the earth — gives it metaphoric associations with nature and man. Its plasticity requires an immediacy of handling, provoking the artist’s intuitive more than conceptual response. Its formed and painted surface offers the special property of a three-dimensional painting. The opportunity for sculpture to convey the aesthetic of painting with the psychological presence of the object was the incentive for artists to develop ceramic sculpture as a new area of expression.’
–Suzanne Foley

‘Most of [the sculptures] have 14 colors now. The pieces start off with a grainy surface. And they get painted with lots of thinly brushed coats of a sequence of colors. And after they’ve been painted enough they get sanded so that the surface becomes smooth and marks appear from the colors underneath. The more they are sanded the larger and more connected the marks become. But they’re always different. The reason for the 14 colors is so if you don’t like the way it looks you can sand deeper and open up a different color scheme. But you can’t really control what the marks will do, they just happen.’
–Ken Price

A throbbing bundle of highly polished polychrome lumps and bumps, Ken Price’s Izzy, 2005, is an outstanding example of the highly original forms and magnificent handling of colour for which this leading figure of twentieth century ceramic art is celebrated. Appearing almost alive, this erotically biomorphic work belongs to the more mature body of the artist’s oeuvre, following his return to the city of Los Angeles in the 1990s. Stating that the purpose of his work was ‘strictly for pleasure’, Price strove in his later work to recapture the philosophical search for enjoyment and gratification present in Japanese Bizen ware of the Momoyama period (1573–1615 CE), which he has called ‘the ultimate achievement in the history of pottery’ (K. Price quoted in A. Angell, ‘Ken Price, Hauser & Wirth, London, UK’ in, Review 6 February 2017, article/ken-price-1 [accessed 01 February]). These glazed ceramics were the voluptuous and mindful luxury products of a society enjoying a century of peace and engaging in the same exercise of conspicuous consumption as America in the 2000s.
In Izzy, Price captures the whimsical hedonism and chintzy world of the American West Coast through a combination of revolutionary techniques (namely the iridescent finish achieved through the use of car paint), and a return to ‘the deepest and most buried parts of the human psyche in much the same way as Brancusi did, to reinvent form’ (J. Coplans, ‘The Sculpture of Kenneth Price,’ Art International, 20 March, 1964, p. 33). The result of this twofold approach is an ambitious and technically complicated work with a strong erotic undertone, the sensual curvature of the composition gently recalling the precise sculptural line of a Henry Moore.

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