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Ken Price

Ken Price

Ken Price. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Australia: nga.gov.au

Early Years and Training

Ken Price was born in Los Angeles in 1935 and is primarily known for his small-scale ceramics that were either brightly painted or glazed. His pioneering work in clay helped elevate the medium from functional vessels to high art.  

Price’s artistic skill was evident from early childhood and he described himself as someone who had always wanted to be an artist. In the late 1950s, he studied at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and received his BFA from the University of Southern California. While at USC, Price also took classes at the Otis Art Institute, where he studied under Peter Voulkos. In 1959, Price received an MFA from the distinguished New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University.

Soon thereafter, Price returned to his native Los Angeles and had his first solo show in 1960 at the Ferus Gallery, which provided pivotal early exhibitions for Price as well as numerous other artists, including Billy Al Bengston, Ed Moses, John Mason, and Ed Ruscha.  

Artistic Style and Works

In the 1960s, Price worked on a series of ceramic “eggs” that were garishly painted in bright pastels and often included a void filled with protruding forms. These were the first of a group of items that fit into a particular category in Price’s oeuvre as he tended to create many works back to back on a similar theme or loose “series.” In addition to the egg-shaped pieces, he also created a series of snail cups in the 1960s.

In the 1970s, Price focused almost exclusively on a series entitled Happy’s Curios, which were installations of ceramics influenced by Mexican pottery. In the 1970s and early 1980s, his output also included exquisite geometric works in high glaze. By 1983, though, he almost completely abandoned glazes and focused on using built-up layers of acrylic.

From the 1990s until his death, he focused on painted ceramics that vividly show his lifelong interest in color and form.

Death and Legacy

Ken Price passed away in 2012 after battling tongue and throat cancer for many years. A 50-year retrospective was held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art the year of his death. 

Price was always friendly with other artists. His sculptures and drawings were collected by fellow artists including Frank Gehry, Vija Celmins, and many others. In addition to works in private hands, his sculptures are in museums all over, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Menil Collection (Houston), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles).

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Ken Price
Ken Price
Ken Price
Ken Price