To call Ken Price prolific would be an understatement. He was in many ways the artist’s artist and though widely influential he was not widely exhibited until recently. Now, posthumously, he is being celebrated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which presents “Ken Price Sculptures: A Retrospective.” Although he did not live to see it — he passed away at age 77 in February of this year — Price was actively involved in planning the exhibition, designed by his close friend, “starchitect” Frank Gehry.
And at Frank Lloyd Gallery at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station, a beautiful collection of Price’s more intimate works — paintings on ceramic cups and bowls, silk screens and lithographs — display his sense of playfulness.
Price was born and raised in the Pacific Palisades and first studied ceramics at Santa Monica City College (as it was known then). After a degree from USC, he later became a student of Peter Voulkos at the Otis College of Art and Design, one of the pivotal figures in contemporary ceramic art who opened Price’s mind to the possibilities of clay as an artistic material.
He was a close friend of many artists who came to prominence by way of the legendary Ferus Gallery, a who’s who of today’s contemporary art veterans: Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, John Altoon, John McCracken, Robert Irwin and Ed Ruscha. Ferus gave Price his first solo exhibition in 1960.
Price is revered as the artist who helped liberate and elevate ceramics from a cottage craft into a form of high art. He created large minimalist, abstract and biomorphic-shaped clay sculptures, using a brilliant color palette influenced by Mexican pottery, and unique finishes, including his own glazes as well as bright acrylic paints, which he sanded down to reveal colors within the colors.
New York Times art critic Roberta Smith described his work as “wildly contaminated with pop, surrealism, kitsch and the psycho-sexual.”
Start your tour of Price’s work with a terrific video produced by Ollie Bell, with Larry Bell touring the Frank Lloyd Gallery show, which runs through Nov. 10: vimeo.com/49977613. For more info, call (310) 364-3866 or visit www.franklloyd.com.
Afterward sample Price’s musical influences, Chet Baker and Miles Davis, at a LACMA jazz concert in his honor. Baker’s music is saluted by trumpeter Brian Swartz and his ensemble; and pianist John Beasley (who played with Davis) and his quintet pay homage to Davis’ first quintet.
Get in the groove at LACMA on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.; the retrospective will be free and open to the public from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. www.lacma.org/event/ken-price-jazz-concert. “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective” continues at LACMA through Jan. 6, 2013. lacma.org/art/exhibition/ken-price
The Land of Eire at the Aero
If your taste runs to storytelling with a brogue, find both at The Los Angeles Irish Film Festival; it opened Wednesday at the Aero Theatre. There are new feature films, shorts, a couple of Irish classics, filmmaker discussions, a fundraiser and an art exhibit — “Sea of Exchange” — involving L.A. and Irish artists who’ll build a boat over the course of the five-day event, to be launched at the end of the festival.
Films on the docket include Kirsten Sheridan’s “Dollhouse” and Ian Fitzgibbon’s “Death of a Superhero,” two very different coming-of-age dramas, tonight at 7:30 p.m.; on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. another double bill features two emotionally powerful movies, Ciaran Foy’s “Citadel,” and Terry McMahon’s “Charlie Casanova.”
Possibly the festival’s biggest highlight takes place on Saturday at 4 p.m. The documentary “Bernadette” by Lelia Doolan profiles civil rights activist Bernadette Devlin. “Bernadette” was filmed over a nine-year period from 2002-11.
Known as “Castro in a miniskirt,” in 1969 she became the youngest woman ever elected to the British Parliament. Devlin was an unabashed radical who fought discrimination against Catholics and survived an assassination attempt.
Following the screening, a private fundraising reception, billed as “A Liberation” features “A Quintet of Mad, Bad and Dangerous Irishwomen,” including filmmaker Doolan and beloved Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan. More info here: www.itsmyseat.com/ALiberation.
For details on all the other films and screening times, visit www.lairishfilm.com.
I’m a contrarian who never understood the world of fashion, which I considered frivolous and hedonistic. But I was persuaded that fashion can be art by the documentary “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Must Travel” now on screen at the Landmark Theatres in West Los Angeles.
Vreeland, “the Empress of Fashion” invented the role of fashion editor in her 50-year career that included her spectacular successes at Harper’s Bazaar and later as editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine. She later injected life into what had been a moribund archival collection collecting dust at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, turning it into one of New York society’s most talked about extravaganzas, along the way raising some eyebrows.
Vreeland changed the entire landscape of fashion with her visionary layouts in exotic locales. She did not just set the standard, she invented it. She lived an A-list life, with Jackie Kennedy, Anjelica Huston, Twiggy, Lauren Bacall and Richard Avedon just a few of the names associated with her.
The film was directed and produced by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, married to Mrs. Vreeland’s grandson, and features footage from interviews done during Vreeland’s lifetime with George Plimpton, TV interviews with Dick Cavett and 40 other interviews with her family, the designers, editors, photographers and models she worked with.
It’s a wonderful film about a force of nature. “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Must Travel” can be seen at The Landmark Theatres in West Los Angeles. More info at www.landmarktheatres.com.
Lastly, don’t miss the second incarnation of Art Platform, the modern and contemporary art fair Sept. 28-30 at the historic Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport. I’ll be attending a preview and will report back next week. To attend, find out more here: www.ArtPlatform-LosAngeles.com.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.