In the Studio with Jonathan Prince

August 13, 2023
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Artist Jonathan Prince – known for his monumental steel sculptures – first entered Workshop/APD’s orbit when he connected with principal architect Thomas J. Zoli. The two found an instant connection at the intersection of fine art and architecture, and a shared passion for music and design. When seeking artistic collaborators for the new Workshop Collection new showroom, the sculptor came to mind immediately.

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Throughout Jonathan Prince’s life, his love for art has been a common thread. As a child, his father, a doctor, befriended cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, and brought Jonathan along for a visit to the artist’s studio in Westchester, New York.  There, Lipchitz was building a bust of JFK and asked the boy to help. This sparked a decades long love story with sculpture that has outlasted a number of other creative careers, and landed his art in top galleries across the country.

Young Jonathan set up a studio in his parents’ basement, spending weekends teaching himself the fundamentals of sculpture, though he originally chose to follow in his father’s footsteps as a maxillofacial surgeon, attending Columbia University for dental school and then earning a post-doc from USC.  After just two years practicing, Jonathan felt called to the film industry to explore more creative work – feature films, television shows, and animation. From there, he went on to start a series of businesses – a production company, an animation company, a media outfit, and finally, Jonathan Prince Studio/Berkshire House in 2004.


“I just wanted to focus on the thing that I love the most, but was always afraid to do, which was my art,” Jonathan said. “Since 2004, sculpture and art have been my daily practice, and it’s the first time in my life that I feel like I am doing exactly what I wanted to do. And the past 20 years have been amazing.”

Despite taking a winding path back to sculpting, Jonathan is firm in his belief that nothing in art is ever wasted. Through each of his previous ventures, he learned more about science, technology, and human nature – all major sources of inspiration for the artist.

Jonathan subscribes to two notions of what makes good art: “inspiration is for amateurs,” spoken by painter Chuck Close, and “work comes out of work,” the mantra of sculptor Richard Serra. Though no piece of art is uninspired, the revelations come, in large part, from the process, and the discovery that happens therein. Or, it happens when you aren’t seeking. Jonathan narrates a moment that became a recent piece in his latest series:

“I’m doing a bike ride, and I go by a log that beavers have been chewing on, just as I’m listening to a book on tape by Ram Dass. And Ram Dass is talking about the psychological idea of what it is to ruminate on stuff – to chew on things in your mind. If you’re ruminating about the future, it’s anxiety. If you’re ruminating about the past, it’s depression. So I say, ‘how do I take this concept and that Beaver tree that I just saw, which was just chewed up and ruminated on in a way, and convert that into a sculptural object?’”

The result, Rumination, was a technical challenge to build and the team used technology to draw it. But the delicate middle section was crucial to the symbolism – a commentary on the fragility of life.

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For Jonathan, what defines his work is less about the physical artistry – impressive though it may be – than the embodiment of subjects explored. Each piece is an investigation of human nature, the separation of subject & object, and duality of the mind. One such piece lives in our own Workshop Collection showroom.

“The piece in the showroom, Odyssey, is all about ego dissolution. That’s a geometry without any real line – without any defining border; it’s cylindrical, but its broken into shards. It’s about being in a flow state, it’s about freedom, it’s about acceptance.”

Despite the highly symbolic nature of Prince’s work, he enjoys when others engage with his sculptures and deduce their own meaning. The ideas that jump out to them help him to better understand how we are informed by our personal experiences. And it’s from that raw, honest place that the best art is created.

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In his newest series, that vulnerability is on full display. As in Rumination, the pieces will be rendered in raw, rusted steel; nothing polished or refined. Other forthcoming pieces will continue to explore the fissures that create negative spaces – the spaces between, where Workshop/APD shares a fascination. Ironically, our greatest overlap exists in the liminal zones of art and design.

“I feel like it’s that middle ground where creativity lives,” Jonathan says “the metaphysical space where the light gets through.”

What else is on the horizon for Jonathan? Aside from the continuation of his own series, he is interested in developing custom commissions for larger-scale works alongside architects and designers. Rather than providing art as a final step in the process, Jonathan  pursue work that begins with a holistic vision for art within a space. Much like Workshop/APD’s integrated architecture and interior design process, which incorporates forms and materials for a feeling of completeness, the artist hopes to pull from surfaces or surroundings to install work that echoes the entirety of the project itself.

To bridge a gap aesthetically is, in a way, the physical expression of the non-dual: the cohesive state of being that Prince strives for in meditation.

“Ultimately, I think of my life like a three-legged stool, supported by love, open-heartedness and creativity. When I’m creating anything, what matters is that I’m living the life that I want to live, and that we’re trying the best that we as humans can try.”