Ken Price and Del Maguey Label Art

True Essence

label artIn 1962 when I returned from a year in Europe just after graduating high school, I moved from Ojai, CA where I grew up. I moved to Ventura, California enrolled as an art major at the Jr. college and rented a space in an old victorian two story house at the surf point on California street. My next door neighbor turned out to be Ken Price.

Ken was very kind and forgiving to a young ignorant art student. He took me down to Barney’s Beanery (the reputed Hollywood hangout) in LA and introduced me to many future long-time friends.

Although Ken’s sculptural work at present is completely abstract – from time to time he still makes these imagined South of the Boarder drawings. We don’t see each other as frequently now, but once in a while he’ll show me a few new drawings and they make us laugh with pleasure viewing them.

My biggest Del Maguey label art challenge was the crazy circular drawing that I have used for our rare, wild mountain Tobala mezcal; it is of a narrow road through a winding high mountain pass with just a bit of sky and three big semi trucks and a little pink car caught in the middle of them… it finally came to me that the huge racing trucks represent the “Big Guys” – tequila companies and tiny Del Maguey in the midst of them.


Ken Price’s Label Art for Del Maguey

I think that at night, relaxing in bed Ken makes these drawings, and has graciously allowed me to make copies of some. He is not too worried about the final color and the fantastic thing is that the Zapotec, Mixtec and Mixe indigenous peoples in Oaxaca love the labels, and feel that they truly represent the true culture down here.
 Having both grown up in Southern California, I think many of us share a special feeling for the mythic, primal culture that was California centuries ago and still exists further to the South.

I am truly fortunate that Ken has given me these drawings to use as labels and label art for my ongoing sixteen year art project, bringing transformative Spirit out of Oaxaca to the world.

— Ron Cooper, 2011


Ken Price: February 16, 1935 – February 24, 2012
Excerpt from LA Times

Kenneth Price is a prolific Los Angeles artist whose work with glazed and painted clay transformed traditional ceramics while also expanding orthodox definitions of American and European sculpture.

Price’s work is often erroneously described as having “transcended” ceramics to become sculpture. However, his organic and geometric forms, use of vibrant colors and provocative installation motifs instead speak of a thorough knowledge and embrace of critical aspects of ceramic history and its shifting place in art’s continuum. Price’s exquisitely crafted art, often leavened by erotic wit, simply accepted clay’s sculptural bona fides.

Price’s use of bright color on clay forms was a distinctive feature of his work. Sometimes he achieved it through the use of acrylic paint rather than fired glazes, a method that upset ceramic purists but satisfied the artist’s determination to follow his interests. The technique has reached new heights since the 1990s. Sexy, bulbous forms are painted black, layered with lush acrylic colors and then sanded to reveal the under-paint in richly textured spots of brilliant hues. Some sculptures carry 70 thin coats of paint.

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