Jonathan Prince recasts ancient objects

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LENOX -- Ranging in sizes from small, intimate pieces to the monumental, SculptureNow's featured artist Jonathan Prince's works invite an interaction be tween the viewer and the art. Executive Director Ann Jon asked Prince to add a piece to the Lenox exhibition, "SculptureNow in Lenox 2012," in the 15th year that SculptureNow has presented public art.

Prince eagerly agreed to the request.

"For years now, I have admired the hard work that Ann has done to organize these shows, so I happily said yes to her request," Prince said in an email interview.

In the SculptureNow 2012 show, Prince has one piece called "Totem II." It comes from a four-piece series called "Torn Steel," which he displayed in a solo show in New York City recently. It stands in front of the Lenox Library on Main Street and will appear until Oct. 27.

The monumental sizes of Prince's works require plenty of big machinery at his studio -- a 15-ton crane, a 10,000-pound forklift, a 110-ton hydraulic press, power hammers, band saws -- to name just a few. Prince employs a staff of two to five people, depending on his exhibition schedule.

"What I find most important is to have the correct equipment for the job," he said. "From a process point of view, a piece of machinery that has a certain capacity to accomplish something opens up my universe for design."

Born in New York City and living in Los Angeles for most of his adult life, Prince moved to the Berkshires with his wife, Bridget, and found a home and studio in New Marlborough.

Prince at tended several undergraduate colleges and eventually earned a DDS degree from the Columbia School of Dental Medicine and went on to post-doctoral training at the University of Southern California.

"After all my dental training, I ended up practicing for only three years," he said. "Pretty much everything else I have done has been involved in creative work."

Prince then moved into the film industry, working in special effects and computer animation. His last endeavor before starting a full-time career in the arts world was founding a venture-backed Internet media company in New York, where he became the CEO of more than 100 employees.

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"I honestly feel that it is my varied background that has shaped my sculpture career," he said.

Prince has been working as a sculptor for less than a decade. He started his journey working primarily in stone -- mostly black granite from Zimbabwe and South Africa. He began working in steel about 2 1 2 years ago.

"The techniques between stone carving and metal fabrication are at the opposite ends of the sculpting spectrum," Prince said, "yet I have managed to incorporate several of the stone- carving techniques that I was familiar with into my studio practice in steel. I believe that this is a significant reason my steel work looks very different than most steel sculptures that are out there in the world."

Prince's "science projects," as he often refers to them, welcomes viewers to interact with each piece at different angles. Noted for his larger-scale work, he said he attepmts "to have a sculpture reveal something that can only be seen from a particular vantage point."

In smaller objects, he said, he aims for a "preciousness" or "jewel-like quality."

As for a source of inspiration, Prince says it's really difficult to pin down one thing.

"But what I can tell you," he said, "is that for some reason it gives me great joy to build these objects."

In saying that, Prince points to a number of themes he looks to carry through in his work. One idea is the premise that "the more basic an object -- so-called primitive geometries -- the more that past and future seem to converge."

"For example, it often looks like my sculptures could be an artifact from an ancient civilization or just as easily been left on Earth by aliens," Prince said.

The idea of atrophy stands out in Prince's "Totem II." Steel is difficult to work with, and Prince holds a central theme that "things" people often hold in high esteem are destined to fail them. For example, Prince's new work of an 8-foot disc shape, looking as if it were fractured over centuries, even eons, has the obscure name of "G2V."

"[G2V] turns out to be the astronomical nomenclature for our sun," he said. "My premise is that most ancient civilizations have worshiped the sun in one form or another and referred to it by many different names. As an astronomical object, G2V is central to our planet and our existence. As a deity or idol, it has failed all those who have worshipped it."


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