Roxy Paine in Ponderland
Artist and sculptor Roxy Paine discusses his new show at New York’s James Cohan Gallery
Roxy Paine has been creating abstract, otherworldly, and thought-provoking sculpture and artwork for over a decade and a half now. He’s the artist who brings us the stainless steel trees, the PMU (Painting Manufacture Unit) and the Scumak (Auto Sculpture Maker). Steeped in botanical study and engrossed with the trappings of mechanical technology, this fascinating artist and sculptor utilizes synthetic materials such as stainless steel, vinyl, thermoset polymer, epoxy and oil paint to craft a range of intricate and techno-organicist works.
Roxy Paine is a featured artist at the highly celebrated Ecstasy: In and About Altered States exhibition at The Geffen Contemporary, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. On his home turf of New York, Roxy Paine has once again been drawing the masses to the James Cohan Gallery, 533 West 26th Street, New York. The gallery’s exhibition of his work features several new pieces never before seen by New York’s art-enchanted public, including a stunning new synthetic abstraction the artist has painstakingly created and entitled Weed Choked Garden.
The blooms of Weed Choked Garden sprout with vigorous life, defying demise upon a grid-like bed in a series of thought-provoking furrows. Yet many of the vegetal forms on Roxy Paine’s meticulously crafted ersatz dirt bed are clearly decaying. The artist’s arduously sculptured stalk, fruit, foliage and fungus are hand-painted so realistically that it is no easy task not to reach out and pluck, for salvation’s sake, a gagging plant or two. Everything appears in varying stages of “life” yet, organically, nothing here on Weed Choked Garden is “actually” alive. Rather, all is translated into Roxy’s own language through the artist’s masterful use of thermoset plastic, polymer, oil paint, PETG, stainless steel, lacquer, epoxy, and pigment.
Roxy Paine details what inspired him to complement rotting vegetation with the flagrant and flourishing outsiders of Weed Choked Garden. “The elements which are really thriving are the weeds…the uncontrolled elements, the undesired elements,” he states. “It’s really about this conflict between the rational order—i.e. the human imposed order and the organic order—which is profoundly indifferent to the rational order, and ultimately always wins out.”
I ask the artist what he imagines people might think when they see his new piece. “Well that’s very difficult to say, and control,” he says. “The field is a concept that’s very appealing to me. I want my pieces to be fields, like fertile fields for the mind; I want them to provoke thought. But I don’t like to be controlled, preached at, or told what to think. So I don’t want to make pieces that tell people what to think. But I do want to make them very fertile grounds for thought, if that distinction makes sense. I want it [Weed Choked Garden] to be a meditation on this conflict of trying to impose our grid on nature, the lines that have been established for the plants, and the way the weeds have not a care for that grid at all”.
By embracing codes of molecular structure and organic logic, then breaking nature’s complex speech into a lucid if alchemical vernacular, Roxy Paine works with a language he describes as “a series of elements and rules about how those elements are joined.” For each of his synthetic creations, he scrupulously learns by heart and adheres to this language, in order to raise his unparalleled artificial compositions from the depths of what one might call super-subconscious perception. A soft-spoken man with many profound interests, here is a virtuoso in our very midst, a solitary cognitive powerhouse of expression.