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Tony Price - Life & Times
essay by James Rutherford
     Returning to New Mexico, Price reassembled his “Last S.A.L.T. Talks”. In 1985 author, Cree McCree, called the ‘post-apocalyptic conference of metallic diplomats’… ‘perhaps Price’s most ambitious work to date’. Describing the sight inside Price’s home she wrote: ‘On the walls hang a series of masks:some playful, some beautiful, others as sinister as untimely death. Like the
primitive masks that inspired them, they run the gamut of human experience. Below the masks are the counterparts of Hopi Kachinas. One of them, a fanciful creature with a dragon tail, holds out a beggars bowl. A wandering mendicant that has survived the holocaust, it is entitled “Begging For Plutonium”. Price’s humor hurts’4.Writer William Hart also picked up on the humor in Price’s work: ‘He has tried to reconcile the ”technology of death” with a sort of sardonic spiritualism, to shape scraps of precision metal-craft into modern icons infused with a grim whimsy that befits the nuclear age’5.
     1986 was another important year for Price. That summer he was the featured artist at the Telluride Ideas Festival where he displayed several works at the gathering of many of the world’s great thinkers. That same year the Governor’s Gallery at the New Mexico State Capitol mounted a major exhibition of Atomic Art to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first atomic bomb test. The show was well received by the public and the media. Critic David Bell called it ‘a surprising show on a number of counts, not the least of which is its location. By its installation in the State Capitol, it automatically takes on the character of a political as well as artistic statement’. ‘Artistically, the issue with all the works is the same. It has to do with achieving a balance of materials, process, form, subject and ideological content’6. Writer Harrison Sudborough, said: ‘Price’s ‘Space-age materials and space-age imagery address the prime fact of modern life: We all live, since that Trinity Site blast 40 years ago, under the threat of total extinction’. ’Art historians or historical anthropologists may well consider Price’s sculptural icons to be the prime artwork of this age’7.

© Lisa Law
     In 1988 Price’s Atomic Art was exposed literally all over the world in an event called MegaVision. The event was the brainchild of Russian activist, Joseph Goldin, who invited Santa Fe to be one of several cities to participate. This event coincided with the beginning of Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost (openness) and his program of economic, political, and social restructuring called Perestroika. Held in the rotunda of the State Capitol, the event revolved around simultaneous satellite uplinks with other public gatherings in participating cities around the world. Santa Fe’s event featured the San Juan Pueblo Eagle Dancers, the St. Francis Cathedral Choir, Native American artist Harold Littlebird reciting his poetry and Tony Price, accompanied by his family, playing his nuclear gongs.

Tony Price - Life & Times
essay by James Rutherford