New York

David Annesley

Poindexter Gallery

David Annesley showed three sculptures at the Poindexter Gallery which were extremely impressive. One piece (they were untitled) was, I felt, quite a bit less successful than the other two; attempting to account for its relative failure made one aware of the subtlety and denseness of the internal consistency of the three works and also how blunt and hopelessly generalized is the kind of terminology habitually used to deal with open metal sculpture.

The pieces that Annesley showed in his last exhibition differ from his recent sculpture in slight but important ways; the work from both shows manifests a very thorough and intentional kind of exploration, as though Annesley is attempting to get to know the feel for a certain kind of space. In fact, what broadly characterizes his work is that the constituent parts of every sculpture (predominantly shallow circles and rectangular slats of painted sheet metal) have a similar spatial placement or orientation—that is, every surface is aligned perpendicularly to the frontal plane and is centered with respect to that plane.

The actual shallowness of this particular spatial projection, which is uniquely a quality of Annesley’s sculpture, is initially bewildering. Looking at the sculpture from a distance, one misses any angled or jutting emphases which could deflect one’s eyes away from the frontal plane and thus signal that the sculpture exists literally “in the round”; one has the feeling that one’s eyes can pass through the sculpture too quickly. Moving nearer, the generalized feeling of thinness gives way to specific cutting silhouettes and swift thickenings of line which reveal the breadth of the sheet metal. The sculpture demands that one align oneself with it in order to see it; one looks into, almost at, sharply delimited shallow space and across and down onto narrow colored surfaces which shift with the slightest movement of head or body. Annesley exploits qualities of shallowness and encircledness and makes one feel them in a way that I, for one, have never felt before.

Two things are particularly striking about Annesley’s sculpture; that he uses the actual uninflected thinness of sheet metal with precision and to extraordinary effect, and that the sculptures are infused with a quality of stillness that is uniquely moving—something which I feel David Smith aimed for in certain of his painted circular sculptures from 1962 but which he failed to achieve. The quality of stillness in Annesley’s sculpture is not a static quality but rather one of equipoise. For instance, one sculpture which consists of a single circle, six feet in diameter, is given life by the placement of two identically angled rectangular “boxes,” one inside the circle, the other abutting it. The conjunction of the three shallow forms in no way illustrates a balance, that is there is no demonstrated precariousness to the angling of the two rectangular boxes, nor is there anything directional to the way they jut into space, which is so often, unsatisfyingly, the case with constructed sculpture. The span of the circle and the particular angle of the boxes form three distinct, visual emphases which together make an abstract, visual balance, as opposed to a rational one. I think the sculpture which succeeded least was one where a circle and three rectangular boxes were assembled in such a way as to make it seem that each part was literally and perilously balancing the other, and this gave an uncomfortable rickety quality to the whole.

Jane Harrison Cone