New works at Nelson-Atkins created from coal



Tom Price, English (b. 1973). The Presence of Absence (detail), 2014. Coal, PVA, steel and epoxy. Courtesy of the artist.

Coal – a fundamental building block of all living organisms – is an unusual medium for an artist. But Tom Price has used it to create a new body of work coming June 20 to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

This is Price’s first solo U.S. exhibition. He’s trained in both sculpture and design, and likes to work in unfamiliar materials, encouraging them to behave in unfamiliar ways.

Since graduating from London’s Royal College of Art, Price has established an international career as an artist and designer with works in major collections and museums worldwide, including acquisitions by San Francisco MOMA, Denver Art Museum, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the MKG Hamburg, and Amore Pacific Museum of Art in Seoul. He has also completed several large-scale sculptural commissions for public and private spaces.

His show Presence and Absence: New Works by Tom Price features hollow bodies of coal, coal voids and large columns of internally-fractured resin exploring the dependent and opposing notions of presence and absence.

Here’s more from the Nelson-Atkins:

“Tom’s new works investigate the seemingly conflicting states of being: presence and absence,” said Catherine Futter, The Helen Jane and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Senior Curator, Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts. “Tom begins not with an artwork in mind, but with an investigation of his materials, oftentimes using them in ways they were not intended to be used.”

The contrasts between natural coal and synthetic resin are as significant as the voids and spaces that define Price’s forms. The artist said he hopes visitors will engage with these new works on several different levels.

“It’s important that the viewer is able to engage with the works initially on a superficial level, responding solely to the aesthetic qualities of the forms, composition and materials,” said Price. “But it is equally important that they offer the possibility of further insight into the process, meaning and concept so that the experience can be both aesthetically and intellectually enriching.”

Coal is one of the purest sources of carbon. Effectively fossilized woodland, it bears witness to the transient and transformative nature of life on Earth. Coal is the principle source of electric energy throughout the world today, bringing power to sustain and support new life, while also significantly contributing to the environmental pollution that is currently threatening our existence. It is an incredibly potent material both in terms of its effectiveness as a source of energy, and also what it represents.

“These works are unique in that they represent both presence and absence at the same time,” said Futter. “There are casts showing the presence of a body, but the body is absent. The cracks in his resin works are absences in and of themselves.”

Presence and Absence: New Works by Tom Price runs through Jan. 4, 2015.

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