Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective Exhibition at the Met

A bright red, blobby ceramic sculpture made by Ken Price and now featured at the Met Museum

With the Met's annual Roof Garden installation feeling less "festive vacation" this year and more "blood-splattered crime scene" (not to mention that the season's big fashion exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture, is just depressing for anyone who lived through or still cares about that era), it's nice that at least one of the museum's summer shows arrives with a certain amount of exuberance, and sense of fun. That would be Ken Price: Sculptures, a fabulous, career-spanning retrospective featuring some 65 of the artist's signature ceramic works. 

A sea turtle ceramic tea cup sculpture made by Ken Price and now featured at the Met Museum

A Brief History of Ken Price

That Ken Price's sculptures exude a certain sunniness isn't much of a surprise: born and raised in Los Angeles during the 1930s and '40s, Price spent much of the early part of his life surfing, and fully embraced the whole beach culture. But when he wasn't in the waves, Price was making art–drawing, painting and, most famously, molding, firing and coloring ceramics–and when he died last year at the age of 77, he left behind a remarkable body of work. Some have sniffed that these are more crafts than art, but all I can say about that is: more room in the galleries for the rest of us. The Ken Price exhibition at the Met was designed by his long-time friend Frank Gehry, and in both conception and execution it's the kind of show that can't help but make me smile. 

A shot of several of the ceramic sculpture made by Ken Price that are now featured at the Met Museum

Ken Price's Bright and Blobby Sculptures

The most common shape of a Ken Price sculpture is a blobby pile of blobs. He also seems to favor complicated, craggy structures with a mysterious chunk/cross section removed. Early on, he enjoyed making beautiful, totally impractical tea cups and such, sometimes featuring turtles and other creatures of the sea. These are all exceedingly pleasant to look at, and you can imagine just about anything here perking up a room in your home. But really, it's Price's amazing use of color that elevates his creations into museum-quality work. Price uses a beautiful, complicated, sophisticated palette in combinations that had they been splattered on a canvas might have made him an art superstar. But then this lovely, modest exhibition, which takes up two smallish galleries in the Met's contemporary wing, wouldn't be the lovely, modest exhibition that it is. 

A bright green and red, blobby ceramic sculpture made by Ken Price and now featured at the Met Museum

More Information: Ken Price at the Met

Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective will be at the Met through September 22. The Met is now open 7 days a week, on Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday to 9:00 p.m. Admission to the Met is always suggested, so it's easy to stop in, pay $5 or so, and see one or two shows. You'll find more information about all of the Met's current exhibitions online.

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