Roxy Paine: ‘Denuded Lens’ — Ken Johnson

The New York Times , 11.14.2017

Roxy Paine is known for technically ambitious sculptures, like trees made of stainless-steel tubes, and computer-controlled machines that produce globby plastic sculptures. Lately he has taken to woodworking, creating realistic objects that look as if they had been transformed by a Midas with a wooden touch.

The main attraction in this exhibition is a spectacular life-size diorama representing an airport security gateway, with X-ray apparatus, conveyors, plastic bins and so forth, reproduced in maple. Furthermore, it’s all been rendered in perspective: Objects are smaller toward the back end, and right angles are skewed, so that the whole tableau seems to exist somewhere between two and three dimensions. With the floor sloping upward from front to back — as it would seem to in a photograph or a painting — it induces a dreamy, slightly dizzying effect.

At first, it appears terrifically impressive as a feat of technical skill. But as you spend time studying it, an anonymous, mechanical feeling sets in. Once you get past the initial shock of the transformation into wood and the illusory perspective, you don’t discover any more imaginative surprises.

Another piece, called “Scrutiny,” has numerous high-tech observational and measuring devices arranged around a laboratory table, all rendered in wood but without the perspective twist. Mr. Paine is working in familiar Conceptual territory having to do with surveillance and the domination of everyday life by machinery. But it’s hard to see how turning these sorts of things into wood, however ingeniously, adds anything consequential to that project.