Mark Prent (born Poland, 1947) is a native Canadian sculptor and performance artist currently living in the US best known for the graphic realism of his figurative sculpture. Prent’s sculptures have been described as disturbing and even brutal.
His work was the subject of 1972 lawsuit in which a gallery, exhibiting one of his works consisting of a butcher’s counter of human body parts, was charged with “exhibiting a disgusting object”. Prent was the subject of the 1976 documentary “If Brains Were Dynamite”
Mark Prent has consistently maintained throughout the years, that his sculptures and installations do not carry intentional messages. Despite the powerfully grotesque imagery that he has employed, interpretation is left to the viewer.
Prent developed his own unique technique of layering to give a heightened realism to his figures; thus giving rise to the label “Extended Realism”.
When he later became concerned about the toxicity of polyester resin, he began to experiment with other materials, developing innovative techniques for recreating that trademark quality of virulent realism.
This venture into new materials led him in many new directions in his own work and ultimately, to become a technical resource for other artists as well.
Born in Lodz, Poland in 1947, Prent came with his family to Canada in infancy, and grew-up in Montreal. He was educated at Sir George Williams University in Montreal, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
In 1983 he relocated with his wife to Vermont (U.S.A.). Since his public career began in 1970, Mark Prent has had thirty-one solo exhibitions, including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, as well as participating in an extensive list of group exhibitions.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards including many Canada Council Senior Arts Grants, the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation Fellowship, and Art Matters.
Early controversial work
In that same year he graduated, Prent exhibited two uniquely disturbing entries in “Survey ’70”, an exhibit of Canadian avant garde artists organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In 1972 his work gained notirieety when he had an a solo exhibitions at the Isaacs Gallery on Yonge St. in Toronto.
Responding to a complaint lodged by a public morality organization, the Toronto police attempted to close the exhibition which included a delicatessan, dinner table, and butcher room featuring human body parts as foodstuffs.
A large group of artists, critics and gallery owners came together to fund the successful legal battle in defense of the Isaacs Gallery.
This confrontation was repeated in 1974 when Mark Prent’s second solo exhibition at the Isaacs Gallery featured controversial room environments including an interactive prison electrocution scene, a voyeuristic glimpse into a handicapped toilet, and an enigmatic operation in progress on a figure with the head of pig and the body of a woman.
The galleries right to exhibit these works was again successfully defended in court.
In 1974, Mark Prent’s friend, installation artist Edward Kienholz, secured Prent an invitation to live and work in Berlin, Germany via the German Academic Exchange Service. Prent and his wife Sue spent nearly two years living and working in Berlin, a period of prolific work for the artist which produced a series of figurative installation sculptures of depicting mythic ordeals, superhuman athletes, and the merciless warriors. Upon his return to Canada in 1976, Prent embarked on a new series of smaller, more personal sculptures as well as working on his large installation works.
In the U.S.
By 1983 Prent moved to a larger studio space in Vermont (U.S.A.). In 1992 he and his wife began a life-molding and casting business in Vermont called “Pink House Studios Inc.”, producing a series of technical/educational videos on life-molding and casting topics, and developing a line of unique products which are sold to mold-makers around the world.
In 2005 Prent began a new series of video-taped performance pieces in collaboration with videographer/son Jesse Real Prent. In this series, Prent’s own body becomes a living, interacting component of his nightmarish scenarios. He continues to produce new sculptures in his Vermont studio.