Jonathan Prince Experiments with Jello!

For the last several years, Jonathan Prince's work has explored the dialectical qualities of the physical states of matter and in particular, The Liquid State: the appearance of liquid fixed in a sculptural form, a body of work whose focus is that of materiality and physicality. Prince has continually captured these elusive qualities through a variety of iterations of the cube and column, investigating the ways in which physical and chemical effects can disrupt and morph seemingly reliable, geometric forms. Prince's new Jello Cubes capture this concept most acutely and viscerally.  

The focus of the work has been to capture the variations of form as Jell-O congeals and is agitated by an external force, after which the lively material continues to move, or jiggle, on its own accord. Gels are mostly liquid in nature but behave as a semi-solid material, due to a 3-D cross-linked molecular network with the liquid. Prince’s past works have been engaged with the elusive fluidity of light, but it is the process of liquid becoming solid that interests him in this new body of work. 

While the nature of gelatin—its natural process of becoming a solid form from a liquid state—aligned with Prince’s conceptual interests, it also provides a playful contrast to the weight of his explorations. Jello-O, with its robust colors and flavors, is in direct opposition to the earthly, geological forms for which the artist is often associated. This juxtaposition creates an exciting tension and curiosity regarding the associations this post-war dessert evokes.  

Vestigial Block: From Private Origins to Public Placement

The first time Jonathan Prince saw Richard Serra's Berlin Block (for Charlie Chaplin) 1978, he was astounded by its paradoxical qualities: the sculpture was simple in form but its massive scale, the presence it had and the attention it demanded, had a profound impact on Prince. It was completely transporting. 

Prince recalls feeling as though he had discovered not a modern sculptural object, but an artifact unearthed from the distant past. For Prince, the sculpture conveyed a visceral sense of mystery and time. That feeling of having been in the presence of something ancient and unknown was the inspiration for Prince's sculpture entitled Vestigial Block, and it is imbued with these complicated projections.  It is as though the CorTen steel from which it is made has worn away over time, exposing an inner surface filled with some other form of matter, a mysterious history yet to be discovered. 

Vestigial Block, a monumental work which came from private origins, has found its final home in a prominent, public collection. 

Richard Serra 
Berlin Block (For Charlie Chaplin)

Vestigial Block 
CorTen and Stainless Steel
6.25 x 6 x 6 feet 
Exhibition view, IBM Atrium, New York City 

Vestigial Block in the permanent collection of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU

Vestigial Block was acquired by Edward J. Minksoff in 2013 and donated to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU where it now sits in their permanent collection. In an article published that year, Robert Bao wrote, "'Sometimes the private sector can contribute significantly to institutional decisions, especially complicated ones,' says Minskoff, who, along with his wife Julie, donated $3 million to the MSU project along with a major Jonathan Prince sculpture and Jasper Johns print."  The full article can be read here

Unearthing Southern Remnant

Jonathan Prince is drawn to artifacts and their power to mediate between history and contemporary culture. In viewing South, one of four geometric sculptures entitled North East South West (1981) by sculptor Michael Heizer, Prince felt as though he had come face to face with an unearthed, ancient relic. Heizer's tribal-like cone is able to communicate a sense of antiquity with that of the modern, and Prince has imbued this same essence into his monumental sculpture Southern Remnant, inspired by Heizer's South

South (1983), Michael Heizer

Prince's Southern Remnant is a part of the Liquid State series, which explores an extended conversation around geometric forms morphed and softened through the applied will of the artist. Fabricated by hand in heavy gauge stainless and CorTen steel, Prince's objective is to form the assumed geometric line into a new shape where only the barest vestiges of geometry remain. This also creates a new order of light reflections and thus an entirely different relationship between sculpture and environment. The form is no longer dormant as it has a dynamic dialog with light and space.

Southern Remnant Southern Remnant 
CorTn and High-Chromium Stainless Steel 
5 x 11 x 5 feet | 152 x 335 x 152 cm

Pictured at Christie's Sculpture Garden, New York, NY


See Southern Remnant take shape during the fabrication process: 

New Sculpture for the Liquid State Series: Cistern

The word cistern comes from the latin cista, which means box: a cistern is a waterproof container whose purpose is to hold liquid. To perpetuate the concepts investigated in  Liquid State - the illusion of fluid within a solid form - Jonathan Prince has manipulated stainless steel in a new way. In this sculpture, the geometry of the outer box, or cistern, appears to contain liquid as is its intended purpose. To engage the viewer further, Prince has experimented with both translucent and transparent color, as well as with the incorporation of holographic swirls created during the polishing process, thereby enhancing the illusion of liquid barely contained within solid geometry as if in a continuous state of becoming one or the other.


High chromium stainless steel / transparent color / translucent color 
7 x 14 x 14 inches 


Ruptured Column Inspired by Frida Kahlo

Ruptured Column is part of an ongoing series entitled Torn Steel and represents work that is engaged with the exploration of industrial processes and its application to art making. This piece in particular is fabricated with aircraft grade aluminum, and the form has been turned on a lathe utilizing a CNC (computer numeric control) machine, the surface of which was hardened at a commercial anodizing plant. 

Although these industrial steps play an integral role in the 'machine esthetic' of the sculpture, Ruptured Column represents hours of hand-work in the interfaces between each of the sculpture's five segments. Perhaps the most crucial aspect of this work is the idea that it was inspired and pays homage to the masterpiece The Broken Column (1944) by Frida Kahlo; in other words, Ruptured Column is a modern industrial impression and fabrication, yet is based upon a classic work of art. 

Ruptured Column from the series Torn Steel 

The Broken Column, Frida Kahlo (1944) 

Click through the process slideshow to see Ruptured Column take shape:

Seating for Lobby of New Corporate Headquarters

Jonathan Prince's New York  dealer, Cynthia Reeves, met with Gensler Design recently in Houston, Texas as an art consultant for their client ExxonMobil, who was interested in making acquisitions for their new headquarters.  After presenting Prince's work, Gensler, drawn to the geometric elements of Prince's sculpture, asked if he would be interested in designing the lobby seating for Exxon's new headquarters. 

Gensler sent conceptual imagery for the space, and Prince was immediately taken by the beauty of the stratified, geological landscapes they were showing and inspired by. The idea of designing a series of functional, sculptural seating elements loosely based upon the imagery was developed and is called the Strata Seating Series. See works in progress below.