When first viewing this large diorama by Roxy Paine, you’re struck by the paradox of what you think you should be seeing and what is actually in front of you. It’s clear this is an expertly executed replica of a fast food restaurant counter complete with order screens, straw dispensers and a soft-serve ice cream machine; but devoid of flashy logos, food, or any other visual cues whatsoever, all that seems to remain is an empty shell—a carcass—carved entirely from birch and maple wood.
Titled Carcass, the installation was one of two large-scale dioramas on view at Kavi Gupta Gallery as part of Paine’s first solo show in Chicago, Apparatus. Via the gallery:
With Apparatus, Roxy Paine introduces a new chapter in his work, a series of large scale dioramas. Inspired by spaces and environments designed to be activated via human interaction, a fast-food restaurant and a control room, the dioramas present spaces and objects which are hand carved from birch and maple wood and formed from steel, encased and frozen in time, void of human presence, making their inherent function obsolete. Rooted in the Greek language, diorama translates to “through that which is seen”, a definition that has evolved throughout time as dioramas became conventionally known as physical windowed and encased rooms used as educational tools. Paine transforms the environments on display by using the diorama’s traditional experience as a tool to create a contemplative experience where what we see behind the glass transitions between being real and being a mere shell of something real.
The additional installation, Control Room (shown in the video above), similarly depicts an extraordinarily detailed collection of switches and knobs, a control center with an unknown function. You can learn more about both pieces over at Kavi Gupta. All photos by Joseph Rynkiewicz, courtesy the gallery.