Transformative artist Ken Price dies in NM at 77

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Before of his death, Price completed preparations for a 50-year retrospective scheduled to open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this fall.

In a post on its website, the museum said its entire community was saddened to learn of his death. It described his work as remarkable and innovative and said his pieces helped redefine the practice of contemporary sculpture.

From the spherical 1963 piece dubbed “L. Red” to “Zizi,” which he completed in 2011, the classic elements of color and fluidity are always present in Price’s work.

The range of color is what evolved over his career along with the endless shapes he had stored in his mind, his son said.

Born in Los Angeles in 1935, Price was known for his bright colors. Early on he used traditional means, such as glazing. He moved on to acrylic paint, which was enough to cause a stir among ceramic purists.

By the early 1960s, Price emerged as a seminal figure of the West Coast ceramic sculpture movement. His first solo exhibit was in 1960 at the famed Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, which nurtured Bell, Andy Warhol and other significant modern artists.

While Price’s work has not been widely exhibited until relatively recently, the upcoming “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective” will look at how his worked progressed over a career that spanned more than five decades. It will also explore the work of other artists who were inspired by him.

Stephanie Barron, senior curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, told The Los Angeles Times: “Price’s practice has remained resolutely original, challenging categorization and redefining contemporary sculpture.”

At The Harwood in Taos, Price’s “Death Shrine I” is on exhibition. The Mexican folk-inspired funerary alter sits behind a white picket fence. It’s one of only three in existence and the only one on display for public viewing.

Brenneman called it an important installation within the history of Price’s work. She gave up her office so that a new space could be created at the museum for the shrine.

Price also created prints, drawings and even mescal labels for his friend Ron Cooper.

Brenneman said whatever the medium, Price’s work was always meticulous, refined and witty.

Price liked to read newspapers during breakfast and listen to jazz and baseball games while working in his studio. His only break during the day would be for lunch.

“He touched a lot of people,” Jackson Price said. “It’s a big loss but he left behind a lot of beautiful stuff for all of us to remember him by.”

Price is survived by his wife, Happy Ward, their son Jackson and step-children Romy and Sydney.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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