A British/American artist based in Los Angeles, known for his monumental installations and sculptures. His work gestures towards minimalism, materiality, process, alchemy, language, mechanization, and experimentation with light and space. James was born in England in 1974. He studied in London at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design from 1994 to 1998.
Birch Series is a series of sculptures James debuted in New York City in 2005. They consist of several variously sized, vertical lightboxes with young birch tree trunks inside. The birch tree is associated with magical symbolism: Glenn O’Brien wrote about birch trees that their “magic … is rooted in [the] special relationship with fly agaric mushrooms—that famed toadstool of the red cap and white spots—which is so often associated with elves and spirits. Many anthropologists consider it to be a possible agent of the transformation of human consciousness. The birch tree is also associated with birth and rebirth and is hermaphroditic and self-propagating, with male and female flowers on the same tree. Birch was also traditionally used to discipline students in schools. The works have mirrored sides, which give the illusion of endless birch forests. The pieces are made out of Minnesotan birch trees, aluminum, glass, and fluorescent lights or LEDs. Birch Series also references the containment and simulation of nature.
The Portal sculptures take up the concepts of the universal and transcendental. The historical cosmology of Plato is a primary inspiration for the sculptures. The effect is both esoteric and scientific, morphic, and distinctly concrete. The historical references here span the empirical experimentation of cultures. James’ objects show a formal certainty and perspicuity (exact symmetry, white light, accurate shape) that registers purity, autonomy, and wholeness. His works illustrate ideals, but they themselves are very contingent and actual: they are for today. The sculptures operate between the iconic and the arbitrary, the concrete and the alchemic, the mythical, and the experiential. James describes his work as “evoking pictorial depictions of the cosmos, alluding to notions of mysticism, ethereality, spirituality and science, all the while anchored through the use of weighty, industrial materials”. James’s artwork is currently exhibiting at Crystal Bridges Museum, Crystals in Art, Ancient and Today, curated by Joachim Pissarro and Lauren Hayes, 2019.
Sept. 28, 2020: Featured on Bloomberg.com
Chasing and repoussé are ancient metalworking techniques often used in conjunction with one another to transform natural elements into what are, by virtue of the human component, manufactured shapes. Chasing, as a technique, is about striking sheets of metal from the top—from above, pushing the metal down while repoussé is the reverse—you are driving the metal forward from below. This is but one example of how, via their fabrication alone, these sculptures are monuments of both contradiction and spirituality. As above, so below.
The series consists of three Ferrari bodies: the 1957 250TR, 1962 250 GTO, and the 1967 P4. They are presented in archival quality bronze, aluminum, and copper. In their original incarnations, these Ferraris are understood to be exemplary automotive specimens—the apex of power, form, function, and aesthetics. Yet, here they are memorialized in performative stillness—monumental memories of their own pasts. They rest, almost daring you not to notice them, and yet they remain in neutral—serene relics transmuted, reborn, in a new shining incarnation. No longer functional archetypes of raw power and speed—instead, they lie in stately repose. Stripped of their engines, stripped of their function—these are vehicles of transcendence.
For manual transmissions, like those found in each of these original Ferrari’s, engaging the clutch is about disengaging momentarily from your power source to redirect the energy. Drivers utilize this system to propel vehicles forward… clutch, shift gears, release. Connecting, disconnecting, reconnecting in an intuitive percussive rhythm. With the Ferrari’s of Repose, there is no putting the pedal to the metal—the vehicles are at rest… eternal monuments pulsing now with new energy and purpose. While their engines no longer rev and roar, these Ferraris embody, through their fabricated bodies, a peaceful rest—idols of almost heavenly serenity.
The materials, as the cars, each have their own distinctive personalities. Copper being a soft, delicate, feminine element appears to glow from its own warmth. The surface transforming in time, showing and owning its age by offering a milky green patina. Bronze, perhaps the most classic of sculptural materials, has an incomparable weight and depth—deepening and enriching its darkness in time. Aluminum, the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust, is relatively lightweight and has an incredible natural ability to both reflect light and resist corrosion. Each metal is intentional, they are energetically conductive—icons of transition and transformation presented at eternal rest.
Repose nods on various levels to consistent themes found throughout my work for decades—birth, life, death, rebirth.