Ken Price, maker of clay cups, mounds, eggs, specimens, curio shrines and a protean species of iridescent biomorphic concretions, an oeuvre that rivals that of Arp and Miro, died on Feb. 24. He was 77, and passed as dawn broke over the Sangre de Christo Mountains in Taos, New Mexico, where he had lived and worked since 1971.
Price maintained a prolific pace of production for more than half a century. Trained as a potter in the 1950s, he saw clay, then considered a craft staple, as a material for fine-art sculpture. The artist created whimsical objects that courted mystery. Defying the monumentality of sculpture of his time, Price knew instinctively that size was deceptive and that an alternative universe existed in the poetry of small things.
Price was an early member of the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, joining its stable in 1960. For the past two decades he has shown at L.A. Louver and since 2003 at Matthew Marks in New York. Price’s sculptures and drawings are the subject of two upcoming retrospectives: one organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the other jointly by the Drawing Center, New York, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
Ken Price in his Venice Studio, 1992. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.