Written by Jeremy Baumann for THE ARTISTS FORUM, MAGAZINE
Edited by Amos White V for THE ARTISTS FORUM, Inc
Photo: All photos by courtesy of Jonathan Prince and Cynthia Reeves Projects
INTERVIEW – JONATHAN PRINCE: “TORN STEEL” AT THE SCULPTURE GARDEN
NEW YORK, NY (November 1, 2011) Trying to interview sculptor, artist, former maxofacial surgeon, Emmy-nominated television producer, inventor, patent holder, dot com start-up maven Jonathan Prince is a like being a cat wrangler on a busy film shoot… with a lot of cats. Greasy ones. I’m happy to be recording our interview on two recorders, since it would be impossible to keep up with the three main topics on Jonathan’s mind as we speak, those three things being:
1. His very colorful history
2. His warm touchy-feely emotions about what he’s currently doing
3. The pressure to meet the many deadlines for new works since he’s quite sought after these days, (in fact, he received an email during our interview notifying him he’d just got an order for yet another large piece) and
4. The many new ideas that pop like corn freely into some part of his brain that seems to have unlimited bandwidth for such things
Okay, that’s four things, but in reality, it’s dozens. First, the setting: Sculptor Jonathan Prince and I met a week or two ago at The Building Formerly Known As IBM on 56th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan’s Midtown East. If you’ve never been, it’s owned by Minskoff Equities – Edward J. Minskoff in particular – an avid supporter of the arts. You might recognize the family name. Minksoff Theater, anyone? The Lion King calls this 1,597 seat theater home.
Mr. Minksoff bought one of Prince’s pieces for the lobby of 590 Madison, adjacent to the sculpture garden; the sculpture is an amazingly perfect cube, 3x3x3’ called Light Box that has holes drilled in perfect rows, from all sides. It’s one of those sculptures that’s easy to walk by and pay little attention to, until you actually do and are floored by the amount of thought, energy, time and expertise that went into its creation.
One of many fascinating details Jonathan shared about this piece was how the Zimbabwe granite would break outward as the large drill bits exited the block of African stone, so the holes must be drilled the way they generally make tunnels under bridges… you drill from both sides and meet in the middle. Standing before Light Box and being unable to find a micron-large flaw in the hundreds of entry and meeting points, it brings to mind many questions about Jonathan’s amazing attention to detail and apparently successful attempt at perfection.
I asked Jonathan what does Light Box mean to you? Why did you make it and what were you feeling when you felt compelled to commit to a piece that required such fanatical attention to detail? And how many tries did it take?
Mr. Prince spoke for several minutes about basic rules of matter and dark space, the ratio of matter within the atom. He spoke of his studies of science as a boy, and how the protons and electrons were practically touching the nucleus, versus new findings chronicled in a NY Times article about how the ratio is closer to HOUSEFLY=Nucleus, ATOM=Notre Dame.
It would seem that the matter to space ratio is 80% to 20% and, “…I thus attempted to approach the cube with geometrical perforations that took away 80% and leave 20% of the mass and weight. Why? I wanted to approach the these simple shapes but from a new angle, with a fresh idea, and after reading the Times article, that’s what I was compelled to explore.” says Mr. Prince.
After we studied Light Box in the lobby of the IBM Building, we headed back to the sensational Sculpture Garden next door – one of the city’s most beautiful enclosed gardens.
Jonathan explains,”When I mentioned to Mr. Minskoff that I was looking for a venue to host a show of large-scale pieces, and asked if he knew of such a spot, he said he would be offended if I didn’t do the show here, and I think it works.” I agreed.
Jonathan Prince’s show of four works in the garden entitled Torn Steel sponsored by Cynthia Reeves Projects, runs through November 18th, although it may be extended through to the New Year. Please check his website: jonathanprince.com
Torus 340, Vestigial Block 2, Disc Fragment, and Totem II (known more casually to the security guards as something along the lines of Donut, Cheese Block, Cookie and Celery), Prince’s four large pieces of torn oxidized steel do look like they belong here, as if they’ve always been here, perhaps in part because they’re so large and heavy, it’s hard to imagine them going on the road. What do they mean to Jonathan Prince? What do they mean to you is what he wants to know.
I told him my girlfriend and I had visited the show a few days earlier to see the works and I liked the juxtaposition of the shiny surfaces at the breaks in the pieces, and it even spawned a new word in my made-up vocabulary. “What’s that?” He asked. “Newth. That the newth shows through, and it’s shiny and seemingly precious, of great value… that jewels are often to be found in coal, and that sort of nonsense…”
“I like it,” Prince said, “And, would it add or take away anything if it turned out the artist’s inspiration was from, say, an injury or an accident or a kiss… it doesn’t matter. What matters is that for however long, you’re engaged with a work that affects you.”
And with that, I’ll leave the reader to enjoy the professional photos of Cookie, Donut, and the others. I encourage you to visit both the show and this amazing space which may be new to many readers who don’t frequent Midtown East. On Prince’s site, you will find links to some of his many in-depth print interviews and articles about his work.
Jonathan Prince: Torn Steel is on exhibit at The Sculpture Garden at 590 Madison Avenue (at 56th Street) now through November 18, 2011 (but, possibly extended through New Years).
A YouTube video of The Sculpture Garden installation being assembled in fast motion may be viewed here: