“The cup is its own subject, basically. It doesn’t have to be about anything other than itself.”
-Ken Price
(Chinati Foundation lecture, October 2004)

Franklin Parrasch Gallery is pleased to announce that Ken Price: Early Cups and Related Works on Paper is to be on extended view through Saturday, June 10, 2006. In addition, we are pleased to include a rarely seen work by Price entitled Blind Sea Turtle Cup, 1967, on loan from The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This piece has not been on public view, since the artist’s mid-career retrospective at the Menil Collection, Houston in 1992.

Ken Price began his investigation of the cup form in the late 1950’s, while still a student with Peter Voulkos in Los Angeles. Initially, perhaps as a reaction to Voulkos’ mastery of large-scale clay vessels, Price turned his attention to cups for their intimate size and seemingly limitless formal potential. Price also made many of his cups for practical use. He comments, the cup “represents sensual life because it’s connected to that nurturing and primal stuff, putting warm liquid in your mouth.”

This exhibition traces a path through Price’s myriad explorations of the cup from the early 1960’s to the mid 1970’s. During this period Price worked simultaneously on various bodies of sculptural work. For Price, drawing is the medium that connects these distinct bodies of work, and still remains a central tool for his formal investigative process. A diverse selection of works on paper involving cup imagery were borrowed from collections throughout North America for this exhibition.

Long before they became collector commodities, Price’s cups were originally traded with and among friends and fellow artists. While most of these works eventually made their way into the hands of museums and collectors, their provenances, in some cases, include the names of colleagues (e.g. Larry Bell, Sam Francis, H.C. Westermann) who joined him in “testing” the tequila cups. Later, for health reasons, Price quit drinking both alcohol and coffee. The impetus for continuing with the functional cup format became less urgent and he eventually discontinued making cups altogether.

In these early works, such as the Slate cup, 1972, and the Snail cup, 1968, Price utilizes our familiarity with the cup form as a vehicle to create daunting juxtapositions between nature, surrealism, geometry and functionality. Art critic Peter Schjeldahl writes: “[f]rom the start, Price displayed a double instinct for small physical scale, in touch with conventions of cups…and for big frames of formal reference, playing out in clay some untapped potentials of Surrealism and geometric abstraction.”

Ultimately, the viewer cannot help but ruminate on the variety of effects achieved with a single medium. What seems to be, at first, just a cup, becomes a work of art worthy of thorough investigation.

A fully illustrated catalogue, which includes an interview with the artist conducted by the Senior Curator of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Douglas Dreishpoon, is currently being published by the gallery and will be distributed during the run of the show.

For images, biography and further information on this exhibition please contact Holly Brown at (212) 246-5360, or log onto the gallery’s website at www.franklinparrasch.com.