Ken Price, Pioneer of Ceramic Art, Passes Away at 77

Ken Price
(Courtesy of the Price Family and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York)

Ken Price, the influential Los Angeles ceramic artist, died this morning at his home in Taos, New Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reports. He was 77, and struggled with tongue and throat cancer during the final years of his life. The news comes just as he was preparing a major, five-decade retrospective of his work, which will open at LACMA in the fall before traveling to Dallas's Nasher Sculpture Center and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013.

Despite his illness, Price had continued to produce sculptures in his characteristically organic ceramic forms, their otherworldly colors achieved by applying upwards of fifty coats of acrylic paint and glazing them to a shining finish. His most recent solo exhibition was a show of those trademark works in 2010 at New York's Matthew Marks Gallery. Profiling the artist at the time of that exhibition, the New York Times' Nick Stillman wrote that though Price had never had his moment, "Judging from the ubiquity of his work in New York this season, that might be changing."

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Price earned his BFA from the University of Southern California and his MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics in 1959. In addition to his work in ceramics — which helped boost the standing of a material long considered the province of folk artists to a viable sculptural medium — the artist produced many prints and watercolors.

On top of his many gallery exhibitions with Matthew Marks, which represent him, Price had major solo shows at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). His work was also included in the Whitney Biennial in both 1979 and 1981.

To see images from Ken Price's career, click on the slide show.