Anthony James


I purposely don’t keep a journal. I don’t make any drawings. I just go straight at the artwork. There’s nothing preconceived, because I think it’s disrespectful to the moment.
Anthony James sits at a desk in his Pacific Design Center studio in West Hollywood, reading a paragraph handwritten on a sheet of loose-leaf paper. It’s a distillation of the “meaning” behind “KΘ,” his 2008 installation featuring his Ferrari F355 Spider, destroyed and put on display in a box.

“A Ferrari is destructible,” he says, picking up the sheet and waving it with a flourish. “God is indestructible and immortal. And a Ferrari has its value, but only in your dreams. God has its value in reality.” He had written it down, put his work into these words, just days prior. “It took until now,” he says.

If, as the saying goes, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” then maybe assigning an authoritative meaning to Anthony’s work is like defining a color, like explaining “red” to someone who’s never seen it before. The British artist has spent the better part of his career finding new ways of staying in the moment, creating pieces from subconscious rather than from premeditated ideas or statements.

“I purposely don’t keep a journal,” he says. “I don’t make any drawings. I just go straight at the artwork. There’s nothing preconceived, because I think it’s disrespectful to the moment.”
Bypassing intellect for instinct has been a hallmark for James throughout his life: from his youth spent painting on walls at home to his time at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London. Calling himself a “lazy student,” James recalls only making a handful of pieces while in school, instead learning from conversations with students, tapping into a collective idea of what art could be.

His sculpture has tested those boundaries time and time again, whether it’s the wrecked remains of a six-figure sports car, cardboard burned and then cast in bronze (as in “Morphic Fields,” his 2014 collection created during a brief sojourn in Munich), or the current, stripped-down works he’s creating in Los Angeles. One series, a set of totems, came from a dream that simply indicated he should work with ebony.

“If you stop to think about why you need ebony, you’ll talk yourself out of acquiring it,” he says. “Just go completely on instinct. You don’t really need to know. It’s not for you to know.”

Allowing instinct to rule also affects how he fashions some of his works. Another set of recent pieces involves steel cut into large egg shapes and “dished,” or curved. He’s then taken that metal and either painted over flaws in the sheets or, in one case, created flaws by shooting the oval with a gun—the easiest way to create a gesture in steel, he says—then welding those holes shut.

Photography by Jeremy Rall Written by Robert Spuhler