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Book review: A brilliant 'Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective'

The catalog for the artist's stunning LACMA exhibition is a lavishly assembled tribute to his talent that stands on its own as a piece of art.

September 11, 2012|By Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic
  • An image from "Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective."
An image from "Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective." (LACMA )

If there's a more beautiful museum exhibition catalog than LACMA's "Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective," I haven't seen it. Exquisitely designed by Lorraine Wild and featuring knockout new photographs by Fredrik Nilson of every work in the show, the book sets a standard of excellence that matches Price's extraordinary art.


FOR THE RECORD:
"Ken Price Sculpture": A review in the Sept. 12 Calendar section of the LACMA exhibition catalog "Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective" misspelled the last name of photographer Fredrik Nilsen as Nilson. —

As a physical and visual object, the book is a luxurious pleasure whose sensuality underscores a fundamental trait of Price's art. On the cover, a playful eroticism is nicely captured in the suggestively bulbous forms of the wittily cropped image — a voluptuous 2003 sculpture titled "Balls Congo," painted like a hot lava flow of molten urges in vibrant crimson, indigo, teal and other hues. They've even employed a time-consuming — and expensive — production process in which each sculpture-image inside is printed with a precisely contoured, subtly light-reflective surface that shimmers against the contrasting matte-white page.

The text is likewise crammed with information by five scholars — biography, art history, interpretation, interviews, chronologies forward and backward, bibliography — plus an insightful short appreciation by the late artist's friend, architect Frank O. Gehry. (He designed the show's installation.) Given the evident care, you can't look at the book without instantly knowing how important the subject is. This is an example, surprisingly rare, of a museum catalog that steps forward to actively contribute to securing an artist's deserved reputation in history.

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“Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective,” Stephanie Barron, Lauren Bergman, eds. (DelMonico/Prestel and Los Angeles County Museum of Art: 280 pp., $75)

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