Nyehaus and Franklin Parrasch Gallery are pleased to present Ken Price: Sculpture and Drawings, Works from the 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1960, Ken Price first exhibited his eccentric mound and egg-shaped ceramic objects at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. These sensual little objects with surfaces that include everything from low-fired glazes to car enamel to opalescent acrylics, gained Price (then in his early twenties) immediate recognition as an artist’s artist. Throughout the early to mid-sixties, Price continued producing and exhibiting ostensibly separate bodies of work based on consistent themes.
Perhaps more than with any other series of Price’s career, these works straddle a narrow precipice separating the elegant from the abhorrent, and the graceful from the crude. Sexual and scatological associations are inevitable reactions to the bulbous protrusions of the eggs and globular asymmetry of the lumps and bumps. In Specimen CJ1303 a strangely shriveled glistening form rests upon a cushioned base like a prize winning biological experiment from a post-war science fair.
In the mid-1960’s, Price began to explore the cup form extensively as a metaphorical vehicle. In the early 1970’s he moved to Taos, New Mexico where his cups took a decidedly more focused (not to mention more technically disciplined) direction. In 1972, Price began a series of very angular, almost crystal-like formations, which eventually became known as Geometric Cups. He took a hiatus from them in 1976 and came back to the geometric format in 1979, when he began the larger, more architectural vase structures.
Like most of Price’s work, the Geometrics inevitably evoke references to cornerstones in twentieth century art—from the deep perspectives of a Giorgio de Chirico vista to the cantilevered substructures of Frank Lloyd Wright. They have also been compared to everything from works of the De Stijl movement to minimalist sculpture to Frank Stella’s paintings. Initially, however, it was the rocks, crystals and the geology of Taos that served as ostensible subject matter for this series.
Their implied reference to functional wares (cups in the earlier and vases in the later works) perpetuate Price’s “vessel as metaphor” posture, while making the thought of physical use all the more abstract. In the later works, Price included small, geometrically-shaped openings that, with their black-glazed interiors, appear as voids. These openings seem, as Edward Lebow has described, “substantially blacker, therefore deeper and wider, than the actual dimensions of the small forms allow.”