Jonathan Hertzel - Artist.

Sculptor Jonathan Hertzel Debuts Rooted Family in Atlanta

By Donna Dvorak

Jonathan Hertzel's RootsJonathan Hertzel's Rooted Family

Photo by Jonathan Hertzel

Sculptor Jonathan Hertzel recently had his Rooted Family, a 15-foot bronze sculpture that weighs approximately two tons, installed in the luxurious, French inspired residential community, Le Jardin, in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. The community is basing its core on sophisticated art, lush gardens and dramatic sculpture while collaborating with the Claude Monte estate to reproduce water lily ponds and drawing inspiration from Giverny, the renowned home and gardens of Monet's estate. Seven internationally known sculptors from the United States, France and Peru, will be represented.

Hertzel, who recently exhibited The Gathering at the James A. Michener Art Museum, in Doylestown, PA, describes his newest bronze sculpture as a family unit.

"It appears like a tree trunk where two parental type figures arise," says the Bucks County, PA based artist. "Within the figures, two children are depicted as small tornadoes swirling in and around the roots of their parents and all emerge from a rooted base. It's like peering into the interior of a family unit where the parent's labor of love harnesses and directs the unbounded energy generated from their children."

Hertzel's primary medium is bronze. He uses the Considine Foundry, in Lansdale, PA, that procures its bronze from the Atlas Metal Supply Co., in Denver, Colorado, and H. Kramer & Co., in Chicago, Illinois.

"Bronze is a wonderful material," he says. "Visually, it's beautiful with a gold colored patina, and a sculptor can derive beautiful tones from it. It's extremely durable for both inside and outside. If you think of Greek sculptures that were created centuries ago, you realize that they're still around because of the bronze. And, actually, bronze is 95% copper. I love the material and it works well for the type of imagery that I create, which involves lots of cantilevered pieces. I deal with many interior spaces, which is ideally suited for bronze pieces."

Hertzel is familiar with the labor intensive process and amount of work involved in casting a piece, but the foundries he deals with are helpful in obtaining the magnificence of the finished product.

"Bronze is very flexible because it takes an array of different colors that can be applied," he explains. "You can create traditional hues like reds and browns by applying the chemical ferric nitrate. Depending on what chemical is applied to the surface, different hues can be obtained. Plus, dyes are available, so it's flexible with different approaches. I build one-of-a-kind pieces in the lost wax process and my models are built directly in wax. The wax is melted from the mold and then the bronze is poured into it. Rooted Family was 44 pieces all cast separately and then welded together."

Currently, Hertzel has another project sitting in his studio and he's been exhibiting at the Lowe Gallery, in Atlanta, Georgia and Santa Monica, California, at the Woodmere Art Museum and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, in Philadelphia, and the Ellerslie Museum in Trenton, New Jersey.


Jonathan Hertzel: The Gathering 


James a Michener art museum April 2 through June 26, 2005


There's a simple question that's often the starting point when one looks at a work of art, especially if the work is leaning towards abstraction: What is it? For sculptor Jonathan Hertzel the answer to this question is never entirely clear. Is it a tree? Is it a tornado? Is it a convoluted strand of random DNA? Is it a woman arms outstretched dancing with the wind? Is it real at all or could it be a creature from a Tolkien novel or perhaps one of those mythical figures from the mind of the Roman writer Ovid, who love to turn people into trees, trunks, and animals?


For Hertzel the answer is yes—all of the above. And maybe that's the message of his work, to the extent that art ever has a message. Hertzel’s sculptures tell us that all those names labels in categories that we use to codify and classify the world or misleading. If we could see the universe for what it really is, we would see more unity, then division. We would see a gathering of dynamic forces rather than a static collection of unrelated ideas. The universe is above all alive, growing—in a constant state of flux. But like Hertzel sculptures that growth is focused, centered—emerging from a single point, the hub around which everything revolves. As he says, “I want my figures to evoke a sense of perpetual change, expressing the energy that propels and guides us—an essence of an underlying hidden order.”


Brian H. Peterson, senior curator, James a Michener art museum.

Jonathan Hertzel: When Sparks Fly


Exhibition of Bronze and Watercolors at the James A Michener Museum , Doylestown PA. 2015


Why do we sit and stare at a fire? Flames- white, yellow, orange, blue and green-shoot into the air crackling and spitting as sparks fly and embers fall to the ground. Molten yet ethereal, they flicker before us for a while before slowly dying into coal and ashes-a fire is a living thing with a beginning, and an end, and perhaps we are drawn, not only to its warmth, but also to its resemblance of our own temporal state.


In his work, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts trained sculptor, Jonathan Hertzel  ( b.1953) explores the intersection of nature and spirit and their ultimate connection through the artistic process. Hertzel has said that his sculpture is inspired by an unfurling of elemental forces - air, water, earth, and fire-that coalesce into a fundamental expression of the human form. His sculptures are spirit embodied in molten metal, each piece, a “spark” of the larger life force.


Like all of Hertzel’s sculpture's Adam Splitting is in a state of transition, his form shifting as positive and negative spaces collide. He is a warrior figure who explodes into thousands of sparks, each containing the imprint of a new soul. Adam is the original spark and the impetus for the subsequent sparks in watercolor.


The sixteen watercolors on view here does reflect Hertzel's metal work in a serendipitous way. Loosely drawn with ink and watercolor, the forms float and solidify in a freeform expressionist manner, a pictorial narrative in which human like forms, emerge and disperse in the landscape. Viewed as a group with Adam Splitting in an intimate gallery setting, they create an environment for the artistic process to unfold before our eyes, synthesizing narratives and ideas across media. In an age obsessed with the digital devices, Hertzel's work returns us to the elements to the fundamentals of art and experience, and in the process, reconnect us with our humanity and soul.


 Kirsten, M Jensen, Jerry and Margaret Lenfest chief curator.


View catalogue at,


The Gathering 


James A Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA


Seldom are we privy to a less earthbound vision of bronze sculpture then with Jonathan Hertzel's eight freestanding pieces in the Michener art museum sculpture garden. Yet each of these gnarled and twisting sinewy shapes insists on a physical uniqueness. 

Each has something like a physique, a physical tone, by which we can remember it. Their fluid movements make them seem like expressions of the human figure rather than mir objects. 


Such works by this Chalfont sculptor grow on one slowly, and the outdoors is the ideal environment in which to see them. In their favor, too, they have no optimum viewing distance. With Hertzel's pieces, the distant view, and the near surface are equally interesting because his sculptures were fashion for complex interaction not for impact. 


Building and modeling these “whirling dervishes” give the work an uncommon texture and minuscule incidents of such textures are a microcosm of a larger pictorial events.


If there's something Gothic about Hertzel's sculptures, perhaps it's because, by their seeming vitality, they won't let us forget we live in an increasingly automated society.


Victoria Donahue of the Philadelphia inquirer. 4/24/2005

Stories From My Ancestors

The Sculpture Of Jonathan Hertzel


Aline Brandauer




“Bronze has been used to express human nature throughout time.” - Jonathan Hertzel


Jonathan Hertzel is a classically trained sculptor who calls himself a sculptural historian. Educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts and the University of Rochester, with more than thirty years of experience under his belt, he can hold his own with more traditional artists who work in bronze. But he has a slightly different intention, one for which his history can provide hints. The artist feels that figurative sculpture changes in order to best represent the times in which it is created.


My one-of-a-kind bronze sculptures (says the artist) are inspired by an unfurling of elemental forces; earth, air, water, fire, coalescing into the underlying expression of the human form. The sculptures are rooted in motion, transition and passage, and are visually multi-directional. The bronzes are ideally suited for multiple interactions. The far and near views offer differing perspectives. Upon each passage, the changing views culminate into an evolving figurative landscape.1


Like many artists before him, his current work combines particular stories, formal considerations, and political undercurrents that bubble to the surface.


l.  We think of bronze as an ancient material, classical and heavy, a material that implies solidity, permanence and description.  Hertzel, however, uses bronze in order to show us the traces of bodies that have moved through these spaces, the energetic leavings of experience.  Classical Greek sculpture aimed for idealized representation, the human form embodying the divine, deity made flesh. The Italian Renaissance restored that idea and further humanized the form. By the late nineteenth century, artists like Rodin allowed the marks of the artist’s hand and tools to remain in the work, increasing the sense of the felt presence of the sculpture, the sense that we, along with the sculptor, know the subject. This is the impression not just of a woman’s flank or a man bent with weight, but a particular woman’s flank, a knowledge of what that man’s burdens might be.


Rodin's Snake



While Hertzel is fascinated with other techniques of making and casting bronze, he consistently produces by lost-wax casting. Hertzel models the pieces in wax, manipulating it by hand, then pieces them together. This handwork reinforces the idea of felt sculpture that remains visible in bronze; that the touch remains. While this textural specificity is important to Hertzel’s project, the depiction of motion in sculpture is critical. Among those artists who made the invisible visible around the turn of the twentieth century, Umberto Boccioni showed the three-dimensional human figure as it marched through space. While 1913’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space displays a sense of movement, its solidity belies time passing.





                                     Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space


Perhaps Hertzel’s greatest sculptural influence is Alberto Giacometti. The twentieth-century Swiss sculptor began to re-examine the human figure in 1935, expecting it to be a quick departure from what he had been doing. Instead, it became the foundation for his work from that point on. Giacometti proceeded to eviscerate the figure, eventually describing his work as sculpting not the figure but rather “the shadow that it cast.”*





 In Hertzel’s new work, he continues to make the figure using that classical material, bronze, to depict the energetic traces of movement and presence that have passed. Why, he seems to be asking, should what lingers be ineffable when it can be hand-molded wax turned into bronze, as if peering back into that “shadow.” 



Hertzel spent 1973 through 1977 studying history at the University of Rochester where he also engaged with both film and modern dance at a critical juncture of post-modernism. Much post-modernist dance of the era addresses everyday movement and the energy with which the body is involved: what emanates from it — what is left in the wake of the movement itself.     


“Dance is an art in space and time,” says Merce Cunningham, “The object of the dancer is to obliterate that.”2               


Cunningham also focused on chance. Chance can shift a moment, change a system, necessitate different choices in one’s reactions.

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