By Ken Garber
In terms of the first cup, from 1968, it seems to me to be fairly complex in the things it's referencing.
|Ken Price, Snail Cup, 1968, glazed ceramic, 3 ½ inches high (private collection).|
|Detail: Ken Price, Snail Cup, 1968.|
The proportion of the snail to the rest of the cup, as well as the color relationships and surfaces suggest a ceramic hobbyist run amok. The colors obviously work well together, but they also set my teeth on edge.
When I was first looking at it, the word "doofus" came to mind. That big funky snail balanced by the overlarge tubular handle, and the cratered, chewed-gum orange glaze seem quite funny to me. I don't think of Price as a Funk School artist like Arneson or Gilhooly, but I do think this piece bears some relationship to their sensibilities.
|Robert Arneson, A Hollow Justice, 1971, glazed earthenware, 20 ¼ x 12 ½ x 14 inches (de Young Museum, San Francisco).|
If the neck is cratered orange on the inside and smooth whatever-that-color-is on the outside, then what is its material nature? The piece is really a complex little sculpture; "Ceci nest pas une tasse.” The cup served as a motif for Price in a way similar to the way bottles, etc. served the Cubists: as a starting point for abstract explorations.
When I looked at the second image in your post, the "Chinese Block," I was struck with how much like a cup it is.
|Ken Price, Chinese Block, 1984, fired and painted clay, 4 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches (Matthew Marks).|
The juxtapositions of the geometric, man-made elements against the more "natural" stone-like ones are clearly something he was interested in through much of his work. It also makes me think that this is the type of "cup" a Cubist artist might make. Again, probably a stretch, but the way forms intersect with one another and the kinds of spatial relationships that the colors set up are suggestive to me.
|Ken Price, Geometric Cup with Outriding Parts, 1974, glazed ceramic, 3.8 inches high (private collection).|
|Installation view, Ken Price, Happy’s Curios, LACMA, 1978 (photo © Museum Associates/LACMA).|
|Ken Price, from the Happy Curios series, 1972-77, ceramic and wood, cabinet is 70 x 21 x 21 inches (LACMA).|
It seems to me that Ken Price's cups do not cross the line from decorative to functional nearly enough to deserve the name (cups). I have always enjoyed experiencing Ken Price's surfaces, which are wonderfully sensual, but never wanted to drink from one of his "cups". - Phil Ehrens
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