Spanierman Modern recently debuted the Melville Price: Paintings – 1960s show on October 6 in New York City. The opening night was a success with some of the biggest names in the art world present including Price’s former student and New York City based painter Thornton Willis and his wife, art critic, Vered Lieb. The gallery space itself is beautiful and quite expansive with multiple rooms and lots of light. Price’s work was hung with both the precision and sophistication that only the staff of a prestigious gallery like Spanierman Modern could execute.
Price was a respected colleague and friend of other notable artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement including Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell. Like many of the other greats, throughout his career, Price weaved between abstraction and figuration and this body of work is a prime example of the way the artist was able to successfully reconcile the two ideals. This body of work also represents a time in which the artist experimented with some of the most prevalent artistic movements of the 60s; both pop art and abstract expressionist sensibilities are present within these paintings along with hints of surrealism and cubism.
Stepping into the gallery, visitors are welcomed by Shirt, a large acrylic and mixed media piece with the word “shirt” spelled out in all caps in the upper right corner and an actual shirt attached at the top of the painting. This piece is particularly evocative of how artists like Rauschenberg have played with objects and mixed media in their art work. Similarly, Smile with its large central image of an angularly shaped mouth, is reminiscent of both pop art and cubism.
One of Price’s greatest gifts as an artist, which is present in this body of work, was his ability to take in the world around him, digest it and then reproduce it onto a canvas with his own twist. His interpretations of the world, America, government, love, philosophy, life, etc. are expressed in his paintings with a raw and honest energy that continues to blow away much of today’s most popular art work.
Thank you to Price’s widow, Barbara Price, and gallery owner Ira Spanierman for working together to bring this important body of work to New York. The show runs through November 5.