Ken Price’s colorful, sensual ceramic sculptures have always posed the question as to whether they are art or craft. But the blur may also include the architectonic. His signature forms—cups and eggs—set up a tension between exterior and interior. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has written: “Their forms oscillated between the biomorphic and the geometric, the geological and the architectural.”
Price’s friend, Frank Gehry, designed the installation of the exhibition, Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective, currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 22. He lives with Price’s ceramics, his first purchase being a cup festooned with snails. Gehry wrote of Price’s work, “They were like buildings.” He cited a cup with a twisted piece at the top, and sees the similarity to his California Aerospace Museum, 1982-84, featuring an airplane jutting out of the structure. “I think the similarity of form was totally unconscious. Now I think a lot of architects must have been looking at those cups…the relationships are amazing.”
Snail Cup (1967)
The relationship was probably both ways. The catalogue makes compelling visual analogies between Price’s Untitled (Slate Cup) from 1972-77 with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater; the blocky orange flats perched on yellow sides of Hawaiian from 1980, are compared with cliffside pueblo dwelling (both have small dark cutout “windows” set into rectangles) as well as OMA’s Seattle Public Library.
Big Load (1988) photos: Frederik Nilsen
Think of the openings into his sculptural forms, whether small or large, as the mysterious entrance to a darkened, monumental temple. With Price, scale is relative—Price quoted artist Joseph Cornell, whose boxes he admired: “Tiny is the last refuge of the enormous.”
Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., through September 22.