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by Jody Zellen

“Pacific,” acrylic on fired
ceramic, 21 1/2 x 11 1/4 x 9 1/2”, 2000.

“Flare,” acrylic on fired
ceramic, 11 1/2 x 23 1/2 x 23 1/2”, 2000.

“Hunchback of Venice,” acrylic on fired
ceramic, 13 1/2 x 27 x 13 1/2”, 2000.

“Bengston,” acrylic on fired
ceramic, 14 3/4 x 11 1/2 x 9 1/2”, 2000.
All photos: Brian Forrest
(L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice) Ken Price has always had a love for the sea and the surf. He is intrigued by the "forms of energy and the movement in waves." Ocean waves crashing against the shore or undulating out at sea are the sources and inspiration for Price’s newest sculptures. These works, each about 12-15 inches high, have an energy and dynamism that grows from within and explodes on the surface. The sculptures appear to catch a wave’s movement in midstream and then to freeze and abstract it. For example, in Pacific a paw-like form emerges from the base. It curves over the top of the sculpture and would come cascading down like a breaking wave, but Price has stopped the action. When we think of waves we think of horizontal motion, but in these new works Price has created a vertical cross-section of that horizontal movement.

Each sculpture begins as a ceramic work. Price molds the clay, creating the forms by hand and then firing them. After they have been fired, they are painted with acrylic paint. In Pacific bright reds, blues, greens and yellows fuse on the surface, one color emerging from another and then blending into the next to create a modulated texture. Venus is a more volcanic looking form. Here a single curve rises out from a wide base. Its color is a montage of red, blue and white. The high level of detail achieved in Price’s surfaces comes from seemingly endless layers of paint, applied and then sanded through to reach the color below. His working of the surface makes the works shine, giving them the appearance of speckled and polished rocks that one might find on the beach.

In other new works including Bengston, Horace, Yang, Mo and Flare, Price explores similar shapes. In each of these pieces a vertical element protrudes from a bulbous base. Although the overall structure, as well as the colors in each of these sculptures are different, their overall impact is the same. One cannot ignore the psychological nor the sexual connotations associated with the works. The sculptures appear to be male and female shapes simultaneously. Price does not model his sculptures on an observable reality, and enjoys playing with the cartoon-like nature of the abstract forms. As interested as he is in shape and texture, Price also conveys emotional content in his use of color. These pedestal-sized works beg to be touched. Their organic forms that have an awkward grace that is by turns solid, ambiguous, and curiously sexual. Price’s sculptures are beautiful and seductive objects that immediately draw you in.