Atomic Art
Tony Price - Life & Times
essay by James Rutherford

     In 1969, upon seeing these new works that Tony was producing, poet and longtime friend Rosé Cohen invited him to do a show at his loft in New York City, which he called The Liquid Wedge Gallery. The exhibition consisted of furniture, musical instruments and other objects the likes of which had never been seen before. “I remember opening night, champagne in test tubes from Los Alamos and we just blew everybody’s mind…People walked into the room and it was like being on a spaceship, it was like being in another world” Cohen said. Along with strong sales, his resume lists write-ups on Price in the New York Magazine, The Village Voice and The East Village Other and of his work in Look Magazine, and Home Furnishing Daily lists Price’s inclusion in Sound Environment, an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York.
      During the next few years Tony felt the need to dedicate his talent to something larger than himself and concentrated more and more on his Atomic Art including many monumental outdoor pieces. Writer R. Lee O’Neill spoke of Price’s focus: ‘Indeed, Tony Price, is almost singular in his ability and need to translate the human significance of the Atomic Bomb Age
into terms that can reach a visceral understanding for most of his fellow men. Through initial attempts to turn Atomic bomb waste material into household items and furniture (an effort to domesticate the tiger) to the abstractions that evolved, this lovely man, this tortured artist, this agonized human being has created a body of work that is the ultimate talisman, the Rosetta Stone of a modern conundrum’.
     Through the early 1970’s Price showed his work at various galleries in the area including Hill’s Gallery, one of the few venues for contemporary art in Santa Fe at that time. In 1975 Price met the illustrious art dealer, R.C. Israel, who began representing him at his Gallery of New Mexico in Santa Fe. In 1976 it was Israel who convinced Price to show his work in an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts along with works of several other regional sculptors. It was also during this period, after discovery of radiation on one of his pieces, that Price obtained his own collection of Geiger counters and began checking all his materials for radiation.
     In 1978 Price met a young artist named Donna Lubell. The two lived together for the next 12 years and have two children, a daughter Zara, born in 1979 and son, Jed, born in 1986. To support his family during this time Price sold his stone carvings and his Atomic Art was collected by many of the couple’s friends, family and others. He was also a regular at the Santa Fe Flea Market and would spend virtually all of his money buying the materials from the salvage yard in Los Alamos so he could continue creating his Atomic Art at the couple’s home and studio in Santa Fe. This work was much more interesting and important to him than the stone carvings and bronzes of Southwestern imagery he created for the market.
     During the early 1980’s his outdoor works were shown at Shidoni Gallery in Tesuque and in 1982, the avant-garde RoseMont Gallery in Santa Fe, operated by his longtime friends Monte Ranes and Rosé Cohen, presented one of the artist’s most significant public shows to date, in a space previously occupied by the prestigious Heydt/Bair Gallery in Santa Fe. That same year, award-winning filmmakers
Glen Silber and Claudia Vianello, completed their documentary on Price entitled Atomic Artist and a preview showing was held during the exhibition. The film was aired nationally on PBS in 1986.

Tony Price - Life & Times
essay by James Rutherford