Roxy Paine USA, b. 1966


In 1990, Roxy Paine began showing his work in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where he co-founded the artist collective Brand Name Damages. His early works established an interest in the collision of conflicting impulses of information such as industry and nature, control and chaos, and form and theory.


Over the years, Paine’s work has evolved into a trajectory of several overlapping wavelengths: machines, fields, fungus and weeds, specimen cases, dendroids, and dioramas. Paine is interested in human industries and human nature as they inform and reform the collective space. Paine’s dioramas emerge as psychological, constructed realities of universal “habitats,” no longer present with human figures. They are the everyday spaces of our modern conditions, such as a fast-food counter, control room, sports arena, and security line.


The vocabulary of fungi, plants, and industrial machines became vehicles for the artist’s reflections on mechanized production and the human impulse to impose order and control over creative and natural forces. His art-making machines, such as the Paint Dipper, PMU (Painting Manufacture Unit),and the Erosion Machine juxtapose two conflicting impulses: the constraints imposed by data and code systems on the randomness of nature and chance.  Paine’s “factories” resemble utilitarian models of production, but their results become questionable creations full of inefficiencies and nonidentical works.


Writes Tan Lin, “Paine makes machines addicted to making paintings, to the labor of painting. He also makes hallucinatory, exquisitely unperturbed and minutely controlled replicas of mushrooms and poppies out of polymer.” Paine’s replicas transcribe the ordinary object into the psychoactive event. The collapse of industry upon nature is further seen in Paine’s stainless steel dendroids.  The dendroids began as an early tree-like form exhibited in Central Park’s Whitney Biennial 2002, and evolved into the groundbreaking neural and synaptic systems of Maelstrom, exhibited on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2009. Paine’s works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; SFMOMA, San Francisco; MoMA, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among many others