Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ken Price—Catchy Visual Hooks

Ken Price, Liquid Rock, 2004. Acrylic & ink on paper, 17-3/4"x13-7/8".
Estate of Ken Price, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Ken Price (1935—2012) produced work that feels like a guilty pleasure, in part because it's so relatable and appealing. It doesn't make you feel stupid, or shallow, or like you're not in on some great secret. That said, he had his share of quirks and obsessions, but let's face it—coffee mugs, with which he experimented extensively, are pretty easy to connect with. His 2D work is currently on view at The Drawing Center in Ken Price: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper, 1962—2010; a show of his sculpture at the Met Museum.  

Untitled, 1992. Acrylic and ink on paper, 20-1/4"x25-3/4". MoMA: The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection
The drawings, primarily acrylic and ink on paper, have the graphic impact of great album cover designs of yore that might have been translated into highbrow posters. Dense black lines or fields frame neon shapes. Compositions can evoke the woodcuts of Hiroshige—not just the dramatic lava pieces, but the LA interiors with a chair or simple object. His LAscapes include an unexpected note of realism—a convincing pall of sepia smog hovers above the earth; mineral particulate suspended in the air we breath. In several lava pictures, molten rock courses through cooled magma, and spews into the air like a hellish aerosol. Everything is malleable, mutable, and subject to transformation in a moment, and that of course includes us.

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