Sculptor Ken Price knew he might not live to see the retrospective exhibit showcasing his career of more than 50 years. Prior to the Dallas installation at the Nasher Sculpture Center, opening Feb. 9, his life with cancer had made time intensely precious. Death grew certain as he worked with curators and the exhibit’s designer, architect Frank Gehry, his longtime friend. KEN PRICE SCULPTURE: A RETROSPECTIVE is, then, a celebration of his life’s work. Curated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it was first displayed, the installation has earned widespread critical praise and has solidified Price’s reputation as an experimental and influential sculptor. “The simplest, most playful things are the result of the most intense and prolonged labor,” says Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher. Work that appears fluid and effortless, nuanced and light, is the result of Price’s mastery of material and form — and artistic wit. Price’s work stretches the traditional uses of ceramic, long considered the tool of a craftsman more than an artist. Early in his career, Price molded mugs with playful protrusions of an abstract nose or a snail. But over time, the craftlike quality disappeared, eventually giving way to his larger-scale abstract blob sculptures that are smooth and boldly colored. If the exhibit began with Price’s early work, viewers would first encounter the artist as a craftsman. But, says Stephanie Barron, chief curator of modern and contemporary art at LACMA and curator of this exhibit, “one of the things that was important to me was that the work be considered sculpture.” Barron began the exhibit with the artist’s most recent abstract contemporary sculptures and worked back to his roots. Barron also worked closely with Price and Gehry on presentation. “There was clearly a lot of emotion,” she says, as the team ramped up, planning to involve Price in as many decisions as possible. “Everyone brought their best game to the table.” Price died on Feb. 24, 2012; the exhibit opened at the LACMA six months later — and earned rave reviews. After Dallas, it will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. “I hope we did him proud,” Barron says.