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.