Since he began making art at the turn of this century, Seth Price has used an array of mediums to create a remarkably diverse body of work. He seems to both love and loathe the material incarnation of an idea and to be ready to undermine any expectation one may have of his practice. His work can be formally rigorous at one point and loose as a doodle at the next. In keeping with the constant churn of his output, this exhibition was unlike any the artist has mounted before.
There were nearly 80 works on view—most of them hung salon-style on the walls, though a few were shown in vitrines and a handful of artist’s books were laid out on reading tables. Almost all the pieces on the walls were framed, but a number of them looked as if they were pulled from the bottom of some almost-forgotten heap. Variously tattered and fresh, drawn and painted, printed and glued together, the selection had a kitchen-sink quality that reflected the range of Price’s interests.
Curated by Achim Hochdörfer, the show was supposedly of drawings, though any two-dimensional work of a certain scale, it seems, could be a drawing for Price. The pieces on view were ostensibly all studies for works dating from 2000 to 2015. There was no effort to categorize them further, which made the show more interesting and less didactic than it could have been.
For the most part, Hochdörfer did a fine job of selecting studies that have stand-alone interest. Study for a Christian Novel (2001-02) is an amusing text-based piece that sketches out characters and plot points for an apocalyptic thriller. It’s like a map for a world that never was. Study in Taste for a Video (2000) depicts a boggle-eyed cow standing beside a woman lifting weights in a body of water. It’s a humorous work, lighthearted and kid-friendly, but it also exemplifies Price’s skill for surreal illustration.
Price is a talented draftsman, but technical facility by itself can be lifeless. While Calendar Study: Wrecking Crew (2003) is a fine drawing of a worker with a wheelbarrow, it’s mainly interesting in its relation to Price’s 2003-04 series of calendar paintings—digitally constructed compositions that mimic the look of generic store-bought calendars. Price’s worker is a sketched copy of a figure from an etching by Charles L. Sallee Jr. that depicts a demolition crew in action. Price ultimately incorporated a scanned version of the full Sallee etching into one of his calendar paintings, which makes the viewer wonder why he first made his own drawing singling out this figure. It’s as if the sketch represents not only a road not taken for the final painting but also the possibility of a different approach to the entire series.
Although the exhibition’s haphazard arrangement resulted in an interesting viewing experience, it made it difficult to track the artist’s progression or growth. Then again, Price doesn’t seem to advance his thinking in straight lines; his course of movement has always been more of a dispersion.