Since we last wrote about him in January 2005, Anthony James has created a new body of work which goes on view at Chelsea's Holasek Weir Gallery on Mar. 9, 2006.
The installation takes Marcel Duchamp's Etant Donnes apart piece by piece. Central is a life-size figure of a woman whose left arm is raised in a triumphant refutation of Duchamp's headless, withered tribute to his sister. James created this beautiful piece by scanning one of his supermodel friends with a computer. "She weighed only 85 pounds and easily fit into a box to be scanned for three hours," Anthony told us, "and subsequently, I cut the figure to exact specifications, in aluminum, with lasers." The lasers added a fascinating crisscross patina on the surface of this ravishing figure.
Duchamp's forest of stilted desire is reimagined in a series of light boxes, constructed from two-way mirrors, containing penis-like birch trees. When viewed from any angle, the birch forest goes on forever in all directions.
The installation is completed by light boxes containing rusted, phallic chainsaws, again multiplied ad infinitum by two-way mirrors. "The chainsaws date from the 1930s and cost me about $5,000 apiece," Anthony commented, "I find them in industrial supply stores near Woodstock."
The exhibition at Holasek Weir consists of four pieces: the figure, a forest, and two chainsaw boxes, bursting out of the gallery's townhouse space, in replication of the "Etant Donnes" room at the Philadelphia Art Museum. Gallery owner Melody Weir has also set up a private annex in the old "Donkey Show" building on West 21 Street, where additional pieces by Anthony James are on view by appointment. An intense pre-Armory Show buzz has already attracted scenesters like Yvonne Force and Amanda de Cadenet to this private space, while James and his wife Phoebe hold forth at night in their booth at Bette.
Overall, it's been an interesting year for Anthony James, marked by consistent sales out of his studio and the long search for a Chelsea gallery to show his expensive pieces. Private dealer Lisa Schiff arranged some sales to Miami collectors, and Thea Westreich sold a James box to Rockefeller scion Eric Dayton, son of Democratic Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota. New York collector Jeff Libin purchased the first chainsaw piece.
Finding a gallery was tougher, due to large fabrication costs and James' socialite reputation. Elyse Goldberg and James Cohan of James Cohan Gallery visited James' studio more than once, and curator Neville Wakefield, an old friend of the artist, made some noise about putting Anthony's work in a group show at Mary Boone. Cecily Brown and Clarissa Dalrymple offered encouragement. But not much happened until we sent Simon Watson over to James' studio and he creamed over the work, eventually curating the current installation at Holasek Weir.
Now, of course, the dealers are coming out of the woodwork to poach James away from Holasek Weir. Friedrich Petzel staffers viewed the new pieces last week, for example. Well, James has finally shed his nightlife image and emerged as a serious artist to be reckoned with. Let the art world have its way with him.
Anthony James, Mar. 8-Apr. 15, 2006, at Holasek Weir Gallery, 502 West 27th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).