Roxy Paine (b. 1966) sculpts paradoxes that intermix beauty and death. Paine’s art approaches Harold Bloom’s take on Hamlet, being simultaneously “totally theatrical and totally inward.” Maelstrom, his seven-ton, gleaming, welded-steel, monumental sculpture of wildly gyrating, tree-like forms, dominated The Met’s roof for a season in 2009. As Maelstrom’s metal limbs mutated, at points resembling everything from industrial pipes to a berserk human nervous system, the work alluded to a range of things—from the 1908 Tunguska meteor strike in Siberia to brain activity during an epileptic seizure.
Paine uses irony and humor to invent forms that question the languages, processes, and materials of art-making. Paine’s social themes include environmental consciousness and natural and cultural disasters. His works combine the natural and synthetic, calling attention to the earth’s ability to handle the toxins that humans create. In the 2009 Prestel book Roxy Paine, Eleanor Heartney links Paine’s art to critiques of various art movements and examines Paine’s statements that his machines employ different levels of language and intersecting languages.
Roxy Paine’s work has been internationally exhibited and is in major collections such as the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His dendroid sculptures are installed at museums and foundations including the Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle; Wanås Foundation, Knislinge, Sweden; Montenmedio Arte Contemporaneo NMAC, Cadiz, Spain; the St. Louis Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art Fort Worth, and the North Carolina Museum of Art. Upcoming installations are slated for the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.