Jack King is both a committed arts educator and professional artist. He earned his B.F.A degree from the University of Tampa, and his M.F.A from the University of Georgia. Having taught at three other colleges and universities, he is currently a Professor of Art at the University of Tampa. The recipient of numerous awards and recognition for his teaching, scholarship and art, his works can be found in important public and private collections.


The Power of Presence: Face-to-face with the sculpture of Jack King  

by Stephen Greco , New York


One of the essential powers of sculpture is its presence.  Occupying the same space as the viewer, sculpture can be brash, bordering on impertinent, in its exploitation of proximity.  Sculpture reminds you that it’s a thing, whether or not it’s about a thing, or an example of an artistic movement, academic category, or cultural trend.  It gets in your face, if you will, and demands not only to be looked at, but to be dealt with on its own terms-- at very least, to be approached and/or walked around.  And good sculpture rewards attention to the particularities of its nature with surprise and delight that may seduce the viewer into a previously unsuspected understanding of the reality we inhabit and our feelings about it. This can be an addictive experience for viewers who are really intent on discovering the new.

 Jack King makes the most out of sculpture’s provocative power of presence.  His work—which, in his words, represents “inseparable marriage between the medium, the processes, and the idea”-- radiates the sheer confidence of its own necessity in the world, which stems from a refusal to fit into any reductive, interpretive box that might be applied to it.  It leads our minds, if we let it, in directions we never quite knew were there before—and, intrigued, we follow, contemplating the possible meanings of the poetic titles King gives his works; or pondering the exuberant juxtaposition of King’s materials, forms, and references; or, as King says he happily allows, mapping our own meanings onto the experience of the work.  “I hope you also see things in my work that I didn’t see,” he says.

King’s work is rooted in the process of discovery-- the seeking of something that is undiscoverable except for the practice of manipulating materials and making a sculpture, and then looking at it.  King quotes sixteenth-century French essayist Michel de Montaigne to express this notion: "The excitement of the chase is properly our quarry; we are not to be pardoned if we carry it on badly or foolishly. To fail to seize the prey is a different matter. We are born to search after the truth; to possess it belongs to a greater power."  In talking about his work, King also uses the word “quest” to characterize his curiosity and the need to see where the process of creation leads—as opposed to a “journey,” which often leads to a place one already knows about, that others have already mapped.

To join King on his quest in recent years has meant embracing two bodies of work:  one centering on themes of passing from one physical state or spiritual condition to the next; and the other continuing King’s interest in cast metal.  Among the former works—initially inspired, says the artist, by the Cuban balseros, who sought freedom by braving the Florida straits on rafts-- are marvelously poetic, free-standing compositions incorporating deceptively whimsical references to everyday objects like knives, pails, and oars.  Comprised chiefly of wood, fiberglass, and epoxy resins, each of these works adds up to something decidedly greater than the sum of its parts: a resonant meditation on life’s habit of transforming itself, and us with it.  By the same token, the cast metal works, which allow the artist to explore his long-standing passion for manipulating metal—casting, shaping, detailing, and finishing it—speak simultaneously of the physical and the metaphysical.  These works seem to express a certain delicious tension between the sometimes delicate or instantaneous gestures that went into forming them—for instance, using duct tape or cardboard to texture a mold for the liquid metal—and the permanence of the object we view after the transformation of its substance has taken place.           

It’s worth noting that King, while experienced in wood, ceramic, glass, paint, and more, is a sculptor in the most comprehensive sense of the term—meaning someone whose art is based in materiality itself.  King makes work that often comprises many materials, rather than work that centers on the nature of a particular material. “I need to use my hands, I trust the use of my tools,” says the artist.  In a way, using his hands is King’s way of thinking out loud-- about concepts, materials, and theatrical effects all at once.  “I have faith in the processes,” he adds.  “Because when I am beginning a new work, I have elusive thoughts and ideas I seek to explore.  It’s not a process of manufacture, but rather one of discovery, sensing the final form as I work; allowing new directions to lead me in the act of realization. It is in these moments I find truths, then endeavor to give them clarity.  The key is the search, and the search never ends.”