NEW YORK - The title of the Tom Wolfe novel A Man in Full popped into my mind when I went to see “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective,” which is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until Sept 22.
I was a bit late to realizing how great Price was. He was an artist in full, without a doubt.
Ken Price's The Pinkest and the Heaviest, 1986.
Price passed away last year, right as the current show was debuting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His only previous retrospective was at the Walker Art Center in 1992.
It’s always a good sign when important peers like an artist’s work and Price had legions of big-time fans among the art and design set. One of them, the architect Frank Gehry, even did the exhibition design for the current retrospective.
Price worked in clay, and he worked small. He created objects that require you to inch up to them to get a real look, encouraging a kind of intimacy between the object and viewer, which was a stated goal of his. The resulting pieces are wildly colorful, surprising and quite weird.
Ken Price's Big Load, 1988.
Some of Price’s signature pieces are like moon rocks with a notch cut out of them, with shocking hues revealed in the cross-sections, while others are like gooey, drippy piles of something gross that have hardened. Generally, he used acrylic paint instead of glaze on his pieces. His mastery of the surfaces certainly qualifies him as a painter as well as a sculptor.
The retrospective presents us with an artist in total command of his ideas and his method. If you want to broaden your horizons and get a nice little jolt, go see this show.