David Annesley b. 1936
T01339 X-Act 1964
Painted steel, 34½ x 84 x 21 (87.5 x 213.5 x 53.5).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Exh: The New Generation: 1965, Whitechapel Gallery, March-April 1965 (2); The Alistair McAlpine Gift, Tate Gallery, June-August 1971 (1).
Lit: Ian Dunlop, David Annesley, Catalogue of The New Generation: 1965, Whitechapel Gallery, 1965, pp. 17-18; Anne Seymour, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971, pp. 37-48, repr. p. 36.
‘X-Act’ was one of the first pieces David Annesley made after leaving St Martin’s School of Art. He told the compiler ‘things became clearer, as if I settled down into something’. He described the present piece as ‘Like treating metal as fluid and rigid at the same time; like breaking a box’. (A similar idea of something being broken open, a skin peeled back is also evident in Phillip King’s contemporaneous work such as T00737, ‘And the birds began to sing’.) The fact that ‘X-Act’ was inspired by a view over rooftops is irrelevant to the reading of the piece.
Most of the early sculptures Annesley made at St Martin’s were rather box-like in form. Not many were actually flat but they were always frontal, suggesting confrontation in the way David Smith had made possible.
Those done at this time like ‘X-Act’ and ‘Swing Low’ have a kind of domestic scale. In terms of size and space they are to be regarded in a way similar to furniture, though by their presence they stand apart from utilitarian objects. (Richard Smith teaching at St Martin’s from 1961–3 used the same analogy in the 3D paintings he was doing at that time. His 3D painting ‘Surfacing’, 1963, treats a similar theme with a direct package reference.) Titles for Annesley later became simply a way of categorising the work, but in 1964/5 he was using them in a way (similar to Caro, Smith and many others) to contain a suggestion of further possibilities. Physical and verbal puns like ‘X-Act’ were used deliberately to keep the spectator intellectually on the move.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.