"Existing with the earth, to Paine, is not about extinguishing our presence in it, but instead about finding the best mutual condition between humans and their planet"
When Roxy Paine's Erratic, a sculpture of clustered boulders forged out of stainless steel, was installed in Beverly Gardens Park in Beverly Hills - becoming the newest addition in the city's public art collection - its presence stirred a stream of dialogue. On the occasion of Public Art Party this Saturday, June 5, ForYourArt invited L.A. based writer and curator Ed Schad to share his thoughts on Roxy Paine and his naturally-inspired works:
If you feel confused by Roxy Paine's sculpture Erratic, 2007, it is reasonable. The sculpture has a very simple premise - it is a group of boulders made of stainless steel (a technological feat - it is easy to make a cooking pot out of stainless steel, but very hard to make something of this size). The rocks are gnarly with the welds exposed and the end of one of the squat masses recreates how a rock can often flake off an outer layer, suggesting that it was built up over time by layers of sediment and weather. This detail is exceptionally weird - why would this shiny thing, this futuristic lump, pretend to be ancient, why would it have a naturalistic detail when it makes no effort whatsoever to blend in with the landscape? Paine's sculpture is brazen. The rock does not try to hide the fact that it is built by humans. This can be disconcerting.
And rightly so -- Paine presents this sculpture in Beverly Hills for an important reason. For Paine, humans and their work are extensions of nature and there is no reason to make a distinction between "natural" as opposed to "unnatural." Paine uses machines to make "natural objects" and manipulates natural situations inside of conditions set by humans. Everything is natural and even simulations of nature should and do exist amongst the givens of the earth. The implications are sweeping. For instance, the romantic notion that the best existence is a return to "pure nature" or to a time when the earth was untouched by human hands is a foolish thought in Paine's philosophy, for to make such a claim denies that humans are part of the equation -- to imagine a world without humans and their technologies is the ultimate unnatural thought. Existing with the earth, to Paine, is not about extinguishing our presence in it, but instead about finding the best mutual condition between humans and their planet.