“I think Humans are both machine and nature.” 2007
Computer programs, physics, science, chemistry, and botany all play a significant role in Roxy Paine’s practice. His work explores human interactions with nature as well as serving as a meditation on time in the industrial age.
Pain was born in New York City, but grew up in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC. The youngest of five children he was raised in a home full of art books. His father often took him to visit museums. Paine dropped out of school at the age of 15, later commenting “It was the first undoubtful thing I ever did.” That same year he packed his things and moved to California, eventually finding his way to New Mexico where he took classes at the College of Santa Fe. In 1988 he moved to New York and enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He stayed at the school for two years studying painting then sculpture.
The late 1980’s were a time of change in the New York art scene. Rent in the lower east side, an artist enclave, began to rise steadily. Naturally the first stop off the L train from Manhattan, Williamsburg, Brooklyn became the next artist’s haven. With cheaper rent and proximity to the city it was an ideal location for artists not yet ready to leave the shadow of the Empire State building. It was here that Paine and several friends started the collective gallery, Brand Name Damages, on Bedford Ave. Opening in 1989 and lasting only a year and a half Paine recalls the experience as “more educational than anything else – a chance to fail and to get the work out there”
When approaching a new subject he studies it intently, learning its language; its elements, rules, time frames and limitations, once mastered he feels confident to manipulate its elements. His study of language systems is key for his series of Replicants; his realistic recreations of toxic mushrooms, poison ivy, weeds and other illicit vegetation. As his Replicants have evolved with his study of language systems, so too have his mechanically based works; which have grown into a series of technologically complex machines, built and programmed by the artist to create paintings and sculptures seemingly of their own accord.
Since the late 1990’s Paine has been working on the Dendroid series - large-scale stainless steel sculptures of trees, usually branched but leafless. They are usually installed outdoors, and stand in stark contrast to the real, live trees which surround them. (One Hundred Foot Line). These sculptures masterfully combine the realism of his Replicants and their inherent blending of the organic and the artificial, with the emphasis on technologies present in his machine-based pieces. Paine explains:
They’re made from the material most antithetical to the organic version; stainless steel is cold, heavy, unyielding, and industrial. The pipes the Dendroids are made from are used in pharmaceutical plants, heavy industry and so on. There’s a transformative aspect to those pieces, an alchemical transformation that is a potential symbol of the positive and negative consequences of technology. 2007
In 1997 Paine received the Aldrich Museum of Art Trustees Award for an Emerging Artists. His work in included in many international collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands; and the Montenmedio Arte Contemporaneo NMAC, Cadiz, Spain.
Born in New York, New York, 1966
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