The Art of Design

Jacob Kulin ’90 is an iron-hot, award-winning artist whose work can be seen in indoor and outdoor spaces throughout Boston and around the country. His sculptures are commissioned by corporate entities, public groups, and private individuals, often for upwards of six figures. They call upon imagination, ingenuity, engineering, craftsmanship and artistry. And yet, he is reticent to acknowledge his success.
    • Jacob Kulin

      Jacob Kulin '91, award winner sculptor, at Kulin Modern Studios in Boston, MA.

Mr. Kulin is of Danish heritage, leading to work that is heavily influenced by Scandinavian design. There is a confident intensity about him that comes across in conversation as well as in his art. But, then, like his art, he surprises you with something completely unexpected, like grit and humility. 

“I feel like I have to get a few more under my belt. I want to earn the right to call myself an artist. It’s a term used too loosely. I hustle. I keep my nose to the ground. I’ve shed a tear or two and worked my a-- off to get where I am.” 

Mr. Kulin has experience working in a wide array of media, from cedar and mahogany to gold leaf and black oxide over steel... even ostrich eggs. If he has a signature style, it is the interplay of unexpected materials. His work is distinctive, so much so, that if you come upon one of his pieces individually, it might be difficult to attribute. Yet in a collection, Kulin Modern Sculptures are familiar, evoking movement, modern lines, strength, and Scandinavian cool.

“Flyby,” his most recent design, was installed in June of 2015 at Logan Airport. Commissioned by Massport, the structure is 18-feet high and fashioned of stainless steel. Mr. Kulin described the piece in an interview with The Boston Globe. “The sculpture echoes notions of transition and flow with its streamlined, telescoping forms, producing a sense of speed and takeoff as the piece seamlessly rears up from the floor.”
    • Jacob Kulin with his work<i>Flyboy</i> at Logan International Airport in Boston, MA.

      Jacob Kulin with his workFlyboy at Logan International Airport in Boston, MA.

“I love what I do. Whoever wants to pay me to do it, bring it on. I’ll do it for you. I want to give them everything they want, but then I want to raise the bar for them. I want to learn from it, grow as an artist, and walk away successful.”

“My deepest memories are of Hun. I should be so lucky to send my child to Hun. I will swear by my four years there. The School, its discipline, and all that it stood for, was very important to me. I did the exact crescendo, you would want for a student. It shaped me. Discipline. Work ethic. Balancing music, sports, and academics.” 

“I love seeing fat Hun crests on the cars in front of me in Boston. It makes me want to jump out of the car and go nuts. I motioned to a woman the other day at a light. ‘Who went to Hun?’ A kid leans forward and says, ‘I’m a senior!’ And then we drove away, but it was great.” 
Currently, Mr. Kulin is working on a centerpiece sculpture for Symphony Park, a lively, 3⁄4 acre space, one block from Berkley College in Boston, Massachusetts. If a small amount of artistic pride escapes, it is only when Mr. Kulin is discussing the process by which he was awarded the commission. 

“In my world, even if you make a short list, that’s an accolade! Hundreds of people pitch a call. Then, if I get it, I have to figure out how to put it on the wall. And I say to myself, ‘Jacob, wouldn’t that be a great problem to have!?”

Before the Fenway neighborhood residents can enjoy the yet untitled piece, Mr. Kulin’s greatest challenges lie ahead. He must design a structure that meets the agreed upon direction, but ignites his personal creativity. And then, he has to figure out a way to build it that is safe, permanent, and resistant to harsh Boston winters.

Mr. Kulin believes the finished artwork must compliment the space, engage the viewer, and leave a lasting impression. “When I take on a project like this, I try to satisfy their wishes and then go even further. I’m not totally free to create, but it’s the challenge of doing both, that I think I am best at.” Within Symphony Park, the result will be an elegant 16-foot tall shape spiraling toward the sky in granite, bronze, stainless and Corten steel. Mr. Kulin acknowledges that lines that you might find in an instrument influenced the design. The piece as he describes it, has both physical tension and visual tension. 
Mr. Kulin believes the finished artwork must compliment the space, engage the viewer, and leave a lasting impression. “When I take on a project like this, I try to satisfy their wishes and then go even further. I’m not totally free to create, but it’s the challenge of doing both, that I think I am best at.” Within Symphony Park, the result will be an elegant 16-foot tall shape spiraling toward the sky in granite, bronze, stainless and Corten steel. Mr. Kulin acknowledges that lines that you might find in an instrument influenced the design. The piece as he describes it, has both physical tension and visual tension. 

“I’m all about creating a work specifically for a space. For example, when I went to see the site of symphony park, I said, ‘How do I create a piece that speaks symphony but isn’t literal?’ It can’t be so abstract that it doesn’t connect. There is this balance.”
    • <i>Untitled</i> to be installed at Symphony Park in Boston, MA.

      Untitled to be installed at Symphony Park in Boston, MA.

Jacob earned his undergraduate degree from Skidmore College and a Masters degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. After school, Mr. Kulin settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where a professional gallery first picked him up. His work can be seen at Logan Airport, Boston, MA; Peace River Botanical Gardens, Punta Gorda, FL; on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and in dozens of private and public collections. For more information, please visit www.kulinmodern.com.

This was first published in the Winter 2016 issue of Hun Today.
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school.  Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.

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