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Ken Price Biomorphic sculpture goes to auction this fall at Los Angeles Modern Auctions
Ken Price, Up Back, 2000. Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Los Angeles Modern Auctions will offer a colorful Ken Price sculpture in the upcoming October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction. Central to the California Clay Movement, Ken Price (1935-2012) was one of the Los Angeles artists whose experimentation in ceramic sculpture revolutionized the medium to high art. During a brief time at the Otis College of Art and Design (then the Los Angeles County Art Institute), Price studied under Peter Voulkos. The “hero of American ceramics” (according to Price), who championed abstract sculpture, was a significant influence. In the sixties, at a young age, Price established himself in the emerging art scene with solo shows at the famed Ferus Gallery, in the company of artists and friends such as Billy Al Bengston and Robert Irwin. Price described his early works as reminiscent of “mountain peaks, breasts, eggs, worms, worm trails, the damp undersides of things, intestines, veins and the like.”

By 2000 Price was making rounded forms, like the lot here, often labeled “biomorphic” or “organic;” seemingly abstract “creatures” who might crawl away. He used color as a tool, saying, “I wanted them to look like they were sort of made out of color.” Price developed a laborious technique resulting in these lavishly multi-colored shapes. Layers upon layers of acrylic paint were applied, and fired up to as many as 20 times. Price then sanded the surface to reveal spots of the various colors underneath.

Up Back, made in 2000, is similar to many of the biomorphic sculptures from the 2000s prominently exhibited in Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held September 16, 2012–January 6, 2013. Balls Congo (2003), Sourpuss (2002), and Whitey (2003), for example, are also speckled and rounded figures in “hand-scaled” (his term) size. After LACMA, in 2013 Ken Price Sculpture traveled to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the market for the first time, this piece was acquired directly from the artist.

From Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art: On the market for the first time, this work is a stunning example of Price’s amorphous sculpture because it looks so distinctly different when viewed from various angles. Price liked popular culture and cartoons. From one side, the bulbous shape brings to mind Matt Groening’s animated show Futurama and the character Dr. John A. Zoidberg, while from another, I see Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. Coincidentally, Matt Groening was equally influenced by fine art. Futurama first aired in 1999. Perhaps this is a case of “life imitating art imitating life.”

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