Roxy Paine is a modern sculptor who works primarily with plastics, robots, and biting irony. Born in 1966 in New York City, and trained at the Pratt Institute, Roxy Paine has taken great strides in the field of conceptual art in a fairly short period of time. His works blur the line between technology and nature, process and product, and artist and artwork. They can be playful, hypnotic, surreal, and thought-provoking.

Roxy Paine’s sculptures generally fall into one of three types:

Natural Reproductions

Through meticulous attention to detail, Roxy Paine regularly brings elements of the natural world into the confines of thoroughly unnatural settings. Crafting each life-size model individually, Paine has created several fields worth of artificial (but strikingly realistic) plant and fungal life. His use of addictive and psychotropic substances as subjects parallels the state of mind necessary to make thousands of mushrooms and poppy flowers by hand.

Deconstructionist Models

These are certainly the most tongue-in-cheek of Paine’s works. Sculptures like Model for Painting and Model for an Abstract Sculpture are Paine’s ironic attempts to literally break these art down to its basic components. In the former, stylized brush strokes and paint daubs (all in a very neutral and monochromatic beige) are arranged in the kind of numbered grid one would find in a model airplane kit. The latter is similar, but uses blister packs of discarded consumer goods in the grid, ready to be assembled into a sculpture according to some unseen instruction manual. Another work include a glass case of those pre-made brush stokes pinned and labeled like rare butterflies.

Creative Robots

These pieces are some of Paine’s most ambitions works. With some exceptions (a mechanized boot that periodically kicks a rubber cast of the artist’s rump, and a robotic arm that flings placards, each with a single word, containing the artist’s conversations), Roxy Paine creates robots that create art. Or, to be more accurate, Paine conceptualizes robots that create art, then programs them to do his artistic bidding. Paint Dipper and PMU (painting manufacturing unit) are both large, complex machines that respectively dip and spray tan canvases with white paint according to an algorithm of Paine’s design. Another machine is SCUMAK (Auto Sculpture Maker) , which extrudes polyethylene into a unique pile until it decides it is done, then moves its new creation along a conveyor belt to make room for its next sculpture. Wonderful.

Descriptions of Paine’s work only do so much, however conceptual his work might be. Watching his machines in action can be spellbinding, funny, awe-inspiring, and thoroughly satisfying experiences. Try to find a gallery showing his work, even if it’s on the internet. You might find yourself enraptured, in the very unique position of watching the creativity of a machine unfold (and coagulate) before your very eyes.

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