Christie’s Sculpture Garden has unveiled its latest exhibition, featuring large-scale works by artist Jonathan Prince. On view through November 10 is his “Shatter” series—a collection of sculptures fabricated in the Berkshires from Cor-Ten, stainless steel, and granite. The jagged, mirrored interiors and weathered exteriors of Prince’s new works create illusionistic ideas of dual beauty.
Whitewall spoke with the artist to hear more about his latest show, how his practice has evolved over the past decade, and how he finds “the numinous” in everything he does.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about the idea behind your new “Shatter” series pieces, on view now in Christie’s Sculpture Garden.
JONATHAN PRINCE: My new “Shatter” series pieces at Christie’s are part of an exploration into the forms of—primary among those is looking at the relationship between perfection and chaos. The outer surfaces of the sculptures are perfected geometry made from CorTen steel, while the inner surfaces are unplanned chaotic shapes made of stainless steel. When the viewer takes in the work, I am really asking a question: Is the real beauty in the perfection or is it in the chaos?
WW: Your work has been informed by art, natural sciences, media, and technology. Tell us a bit about your first works of art, and how they came about.
JP: One of the wonderful things about making art is that you can apply all of your life experience into the practice and process. I have been making sculpture since I was a child but had several professional careers before becoming a full-time artist 15 years ago. My original training was in health science, in which I received a doctoral degree. I then moved on professionally to film and computer animation, and lastly founded an internet media technology company with over 100 employees in New York City. My backgrounds in art, science, media, and technology are parts of my life and as such play a significant role in the way I create my art.
WW: How are your works confronting perceived beauty, chaos, and strength?
JP: I was reading about the great photographer Peter Lindbergh who recently passed away and was struck by his thoughts about the “terror of perfection.” I use Euclidean geometric forms in much of my work as a representation of perfection but break those forms by fracturing, shattering, and scarring them. When I look at the results, I am always taken by surprise when I find that the true strength and beauty of the work lives in these sections of chaos and breaks.
WW: You mentioned there is a “poetry within the juxtaposition of fragility and strength in the materials and forms” that you work with and that you see this duality as a “parallel to the chaos of the human condition.” Can you elaborate a bit on that idea?
JP: I believe that most people attempt to present their idealized self-image to the world. If that representation is different to your true inner self it can create a confusing and chaotic life. My “Shatter Series” pieces have a rugged but simple outer perfected geometric surface that they present to the viewer and a fragile internal polished surface that is created in a complex array of varied shapes. Finding the internal beauty of these pieces is a beautiful metaphor for life.
WW: Tell us a bit about your studio in the Berkshires. What’s an average day in the studio like?
JP: I have tried to create an environment for my home and studio that feels unified between art and life. A very unique part of my sculpture and art making practice is that all of my work is created in my own studio—whether they be small or monumental in scale—rather than being sent out to a fabrication facility, which is so common today. This allows me to work with my talented team of studio assistants on every detail of our process. Because so much of the work is created in a spontaneous fashion, I have not found any other way to create this kind of work. As every day is unique and challenging, it is a true joy for me to get into my studio every day and work in the beautiful backdrop of the Berkshires.
WW: You began working with Cor-Ten in 2010. How has your practice evolved since?
JP: Before 2010 my works were primarily fabricated in granite. The reductive method of carving stone is very different to the additive techniques of fabricating in metal. Primarily, when working in stone, you always know that your work will be contained within the block of stone that you start with. With steel, you can penetrate space in any way that you desire as there is no limit to what you can dream.
WW: You live and work between New York City and Massachusetts. Tell us a bit about where you gain inspiration. Any off-the-beaten-path spaces or hidden gems you particularly like to spend time at?
JP: The word “numinous” is a favorite of mine and brings me inspiration. It refers to finding spirituality—divinity and magic in the world around us. I try to find “the numinous” in as many things as I can experience and bring that viewpoint to the work I create. I am fascinated by archeological artifacts and often spend hours roaming the halls of the Metropolitan Museum [of Art] and always seem to find inspiration from these visits. At my studio and home in the Berkshires, I am fortunate to be surrounded by nature and its splendor, which is a continuous source of visual stimulation and beauty.