In Their Own Words
Artists often lament the paucity of words when speaking about their work. Some painters are more articulate than others, and some sculptors more given to physical form than to prose. There are exceptions—those with brilliant insight. In my high school art history classroom, there was a quote from Picasso that encircled the room: “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not consider the song of a bird?” was the beginning of the quote.
Today I thought about insights of another kind, the way that artists speak about their peers. In the current Ken Price retrospective at LACMA, there is an amazing, brilliant quote on the wall from the artist Robert Irwin (a long-time friend and colleague of Price). Irwin’s words concern the use of color.
“Kenny is a sculptor, and he makes the best use of color of any sculptor I have ever known or known of,” Irwin said to researcher Suzanne Muchnic, for a Scripps College research project sponsored by the Getty last year. “What Kenny knew, early on, is what painters know,” Irwin continued. “He would paint his pieces fifteen or twenty times. You had the feeling that if you cut the thing in half, it would be that color all the way through. The color was so right, so tuned to the shape, and so informative of the shape that, to me, there was a real brilliance in it. No one else has that.”
More insight into the work of Ken Price can be gleaned from a straightforward and marvelous tribute to our current show from artist Larry Bell. Here’s the video walk-through of our current show, made by Larry Bell’s son, Ollie: