The reality-jarring experience is surprising in more ways than the material. The scene is reproduced in forced perspective – a technique often used on stage sets to drastically increase the perception of depth. In this case, what appears to be an 80-foot deep room is compressed into only 18 feet. Everything, from the vents to the poles get incrementally smaller as they move back in space.
Framed within a massive wall like a natural history diorama, Roxy has left one side open, breaking the illusion and revealing the true depth of the work. Like a magician revealing how a trick is done, knowing the truth only serves to make the skill more impressive.
Several other sculpture throughout the gallery allow visitors to examine details from inches away. Each is a bizarre collage of machine parts carved from maple. They are Frankenstein monsters of technology, machines that seem like they should do something, but lack any logical purpose.
Roxy Paine is most recognized for his sculptures of trees (and tree-like abstractions) out of stainless steel. This new work flips that idea in reverse, replicating metal out of a tree instead of a tree out of metal. The duplicity and irony of the process is also interesting. A chainsaw blade is carved out of maple, and it felt strange to photograph a wood camera with my real camera.
The press release notes that the sculptures were “rendered via various processes – from computer modeling to meticulous hand carving”. Intrigued by the idea that computerized machines were used to carve computerized machines, I asked Roxy if and what kind of CNC router was used. See what those look like here (not dissimilar to what the sculptures themselves look like). A portion of his response is below, which includes a long list of processes used in every sculpture and a thought that has stuck with me for the last several days:
Saws- table/band/jig/scroll/japanese, Carving- hand/dremel/burr/mini chain/chisel, Sanding- every conceivable way of sanding, Cabinetry/ lamination/ joinery, Router, CNC. The CNC is one of my methods but it is not dominant nor would I wish it to be, because when one technology dominates something is lost in the work. I have always felt it is important to embrace technology but not to fall in love with it.
Immediately after reading that, I watched the promo video for the Apple Watch and thought a lot about that last sentence, a statement true for art and beyond. See these incredible sculptures in person if you can – your computer isn’t doing them justice.
All images Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York © Roxy Paine
“Speech Impediment” and detail images of “Machine of Indeterminacy” and “Scrutiny” photographed by the author. All other images photographed by Jason Wyche.