Ken Price Stays Steady

Published June 19, 2013

Sculptor Ken Price, best known for his sinuous, amorphous ceramic forms, was an understated presence in the art world. The Los Angeles artist, who grew up surfing and experimenting with jazz music, and ran in the same circles as Frank Gehry and Dennis Hopper, spent over 50 years exploring the medium before his death in 2012.

Price’s sculptural work is the subject of his first-ever museum retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but his artistic legacy resides in more than just sculpture. A trained a cartoonist, Price generated a vast amount of drawings and works on paper. “Ken Price: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper 1962-2010,” currently on view at The Drawing Center in New York, is the first comprehensive survey of Price’s drawings.

The exhibition showcases 65 of Price’s drawings created over nearly a half-century. Price drew with no audience in mind. He utilized the medium to conceptually realize sculptural projects and as a tool of exploration, free from the confines of sculpture’s engineering limitations.

“The drawings were worth nothing to him; it was just something he did as part of his process,”says curator Doug Dreishpoon. The range of sketches—featuring iconography of cups and the sculptural forms Price dubbed “specimens,” as well as illustrative, cartoon-like interiors, landscapes, and collage—bring the expansive nature of Price’s work into focus.

“Abstraction and representation are these key bipolar but interconnected tendencies,” Dreishpoon explains of the relationship between Price’s sculptural work and his drawing style.  “When the sculptures no longer require drawings, or any kind of markings, the drawings took off in another dimension,” Dreishpoon says.  “The narrative dimension was always a part of what Ken did.”

“KEN PRICE: SLOW AND STEADY WINGS THE RACE, WORKS ON PAPER 1962-2010” IS ON VIEW AT THE DRAWING CENTER, 35 WOOSTER STREET, UNTIL AUGUST 18.