Roxy Paine was born in New York in 1966. He studied at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico and at the Pratt Institute in New York.
By the 1990s, Paine’s work had been exhibited in several iconic group shows, such as Fever at Exit Art, Desire and Deception at Brand Name Damages, and Human/Nature at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. In 1991, he had his first solo exhibition at the Knitting Factory in New York City. At this time, a rigorous language emerged in the artist’s interest in transformation and translation. His work is a trajectory of several overlapping wavelengths: machines, fields, fungus and weeds, specimen cases, dendroids, and, most recently, dioramas. 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. For example, in Drug Ziggurat (1993), Paine demonstrates an industrious approach to addressing systems and categories: mind-altering substances stack in a hierarchical order of potency, from a base of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages to a spire of hypodermic needles and opiates. His work developed into a unique series of fields, specimen cases, machines and dendroids. In 2009, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paine exhibited the monumental Maelstrom, a large-scale, stainless steel sculpture of a storm in swirling turmoil.
More recently, Paine has embarked on a new discourse with a series of dioramas. These room-sized sculptures propose universal “habitats,” void of human figures. The dioramas depict contemporary sites as metaphors into modern-day conditions: a fast-food counter, a control room, a sport stadium, a security line. In Checkpoint (2014), a bustling airport security stop becomes a fixed point of quiet meditation, a locale whose practical banality rests uneasily alongside the looming suggestion of larger social anxieties.
Paine’s works are included in major collections such as the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.