Liquid State: An Interview with Sculptor Jonathan Prince

The great cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz once said, “Copy nature and you infringe on the work of our Lord. Interpret nature and you are an artist.” This sentiment holds true for a lot of sculptors – those artists that borrow stone and bits of earth in the creation of eternal and impermeable monuments to their artistic vision. This sentiment is especially true for sculptor Jonathan Prince, whose father actually once took him to visit the studio of Jacques Lipchitz. Watching Lipchitz work – Prince became transfixed. Today, Prince works with materials like Corten steel, aluminum and bronze to create sculptural works that twist and tear at basic physical properties and our own perception. In the following interview, Prince talks about his recent sculptural series Liquid State and why there is more beauty in imperfection than perfection.

AUTRE: You have been making sculpture in stone and metal (stainless and Corten steel) since you were young, why is sculpture your mode of choice when you also experiment with other mediums?

JONATHAN PRINCE: I’m not sure why but - I have always had an affinity for three dimensional work. Perhaps it’s because a sculptural work inserts itself into the real world - maybe because there are innumerable angles to visualize the piece from. Whatever the reason - it has always made more sense for me to create a line in 3 dimensional space rather than trying to simulate that same gesture in a 2D world.

AUTRE: How do your experiments in design, photography, painting, and installation inform your sculpture for which you are known?

PRINCE: Regardless of the medium - I am always looking for a new way to inform myself and the viewer about alternative ways of seeing the world around us. If I am using photography - ink and paper or stainless steel - I am always trying to deepen my own investigation of a particular subject matter - to open my eyes and mind in a way that I have not done before. I’m not always successful at accomplishing that task - but I’m always on the hunt for it.

AUTRE: Can you explain the process of evolution regarding your current series Liquid State?

PRINCE: Almost all of my work through the years has looked at the boundaries between internal and external form or what we see on the surface but feel inside. My Liquid State series are the first works that I have done which seem to have no exterior skin - in other words - the forms are made from only internal material in a figurative sense. Liquid State refers to one of four states of matter : liquid - solid - gas and plasma. The works in this series explore the relationship between geometry and fluidity - creating forms that have their roots in geometry but ultimately assume only the barest vestiges of cube, sphere, cone or disc.

AUTRE: Where do you think your interest in the contrasting qualities of perfection and chaos come from?

PRINCE: It is always difficult for me to determine where a motivation comes from - what is important to me is to recognize the interest and look at it from as many vantage points as possible. The thesis that keeps coming back in my thoughts as I go through the process of making work is that - no matter how hard I try to create a perfected object or form - the real beauty of the piece is in the breaks. I believe the same is true in life.

AUTRE: What would you like viewers of your work to experience, whether it be intellectual or visceral?

PRINCE: My hope is that my work will provoke the viewer to have questions about what they are seeing and perhaps why this object - thing or image may be of interest to them. It is my belief that each person will have their own unique questions based on their individual life experience.

Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Interview and photographs by Abbey Meaker. You can view more of Jonathan Prince's work on his website