Artist Profile: Roxy Paine

Whether you’ve seen a picture in an email or gone to Gund Gallery to see for yourself, if you’re on the college’s dislist, you know (at least a little bit) about Roxy Paine. The picture in the email shows a security checkpoint: a bin exiting an X-ray machine, the plastic strips that hang at the machine’s tail-end bending as the bin passes through them. But they are not actually plastic, and neither is the bin. Everything is made of wood. Maple to be exact, light in color and naturally stained. The contrast between the object a sculpture depicts and the material it’s made of is integral to Paine’s work.

Roxy Paine is an American artist born in 1966. His sculptures can be found in galleries and parks all over the US and Europe. He began showing his work in 1990 in New York. An earlier work called Dinner of the Dictators features a table adorned with plates of freeze-dried food. History’s notorious dictators, from Genghis Khan to Hitler, were each “served” their favorite meal.

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Hitler, a vegetarian, made an exception for his favorite: Leberkloesse, or liver dumplings.

Later, in 2008, Paine began his project of the “Dendroid” trees. These sculptures, made of stainless steel, are strikingly similar to their wooden counterparts.

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Conjoined, made in 2007, can be seen in Washington Square Park. The trees’ branches grow towards each other until they connect in the middle.

These trees challenge the connection between the world of nature and the world of man, just like his dioramas that are on show at Gund Gallery. However, it does so in the opposite way. The Dendroids impose man’s material onto nature’s form, while the dioramas impose natural material on man’s constructions. Creating modified familiar objects out of wood: a podium with a turnstile, a megaphone attached to a chainsaw, critiques modernity’s assumptions about power, safety, and leadership today.

As nice as the picture in the email is, the scale and detail of these sculptures can be experienced only in person… So stop by Gund Gallery!

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