Kenny, and Gehry, and Fox, Oh My!

On Wednesday night of last week, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the memorial and opening of the retrospective for LA ceramic sculptor, Ken Price. “Kenny,” to his friends, was a beloved figure of the early Ferus Gallery scene whose work has reached an international audience in the last few years. (Our gallery last exhibited his work in 2004.)

The turnout was amazing. Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, Vija Celmins, and Tony Berlant spoke at his memorial.  Ilene Fort, Howard Fox, Lynn Kienholz, Ed Moses, Edward Goldman, (and Robert Irwin? Was that you?) were all in attendance. Following a quick shot of mescal and a few hastily consumed tortilla chips, I waited twenty minutes  in line to get in.  Let me tell you: it was worth the wait.

Gehry is a controversial figure in architecture, but he delivered the best experience I’ve had to date in the new Resnick Pavillion. Check out the precision of the lighting here and the beautiful floating shelves. (Please sir! No pictures! Sir!!!)


I was completely seduced. There were a few maladroit choices*, but the lasting impression was unambiguously positive.  (*One wood and glass display case referring to Price’s old practice of building cases for his ceramic “eggs” was clever. Two was smug and gratuitous. Everyone I talked to wanted get closer to the works.)

kenpricewannalickForgive the length of the post, but I have a few more revelations to share. First, I was startled to find out how important the Surrealist impulse was in his work. Said the artist, “That is the highway to the unconscious.” The whole exhibition seemed populated by candy-colored aliens with a decidedly sexual appetite and physiognomy.  The anatomical references, the persistent interest in the orifice, and the hyper-color all screamed “Touch me! Then, lick me baby!”

I was also startled to find how psychadelic these were. Ruscha mentioned that Price was a potter in more than one sense of the word. You could see that the fetishistic quality so often invoked for the whole early 60s LA school (as in, “finish fetish”) was, in fact, partly informed by artists interested in making objects that you could really STARE at for a good length of time. In the interest of probity, I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

I’ll just wind this up with a final thought about Ken Price’s extraordinary range as an artist. He is often talked about as a both a sculptor and a painter - what with his obsessive glazing and sanding. To that, I might add that he was also a great drawer. Check out this geometric ceramic tea cup with its white lines, and tell me if it doesn’t remind you of the white line woodblocks of early Provincetown modernist, Blanche Lazzell? Is it just me?




  1. So astute. So So observant. I love this. I, too, had the same reaction–I wanted to TOUCH THEM. I wanted to get close. To have a relationship with them. So badly, that I actually set off the alarms at the museum. Eeeek! I HAVE TO take Shane to see this show. He would totally love it–especially the psychedelic paint on the aliens. I hope to be as erudite as you one day.

  2. Hey stranger!
    Thanks. Your erudition is coming along nicely. I maintain that I will soon be studying at your hem. Until then, keep in touch!

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