At 45 feet high by 45 feet wide, American sculptor Roxy Paines newly installed sculpture, Graft (20082009), stands out among the trees in the National Gallery of Art
Sculpture Garden, one-half mile from the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall. The Gallery commissioned Paine to make a Dendroid, as the artist calls his series of treelike sculptures, for the Sculpture Garden. The resulting work is the first by Paine to enter the collection, as well as the first contemporary sculpture to be installed in the Sculpture Garden in the ten years since it opened.
The stainless steel structurewhich weighs approximately 16,000 poundswas installed the week of October 26 by Paine and his crew, who welded together 37 different components that were transported from the artists studio in Treadwell, New York. The 43-year-old artist has shown his other Dendroids on the Roof of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, and outside The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, among other locales.
"Paine's Graft is uniquely appropriate for the Sculpture Garden, which balances art and nature within the urban, yet verdant, setting of the nation's capital," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "The Gallery is extremely grateful for the generosity of philanthropists Victoria Sant, president of the Gallery, and her husband Roger Sant, who are making this important addition to the collection of contemporary sculpture possible."
Graft presents two fictive but distinct species of treesone gnarled, twisting, and irregular, the other smooth, elegant, and rhythmicjoined to the same trunk. Among its rich associations, this sculpture evokes the persistent human desire to alter and recombine elements of nature, as well as the everpresent tension between order and chaos.
Paine's first Dendroid, Impostor (1999), a 27foottall sculpture, stands in a forest clearing at The Wanås Foundation in Knislinge, Sweden. Paine has since made 16 Dendroids, each unique and organized according to its own system. They are installed in sylvan settings, urban situations, and landscaped urban parks. Trees have long been regarded a metaphor for human existence, and their forms evoke for Paine a range of natural and manmade systemsfrom neurons to river networks, from taxonomic diagrams to genealogical charts.
Paine divides his sculptural practice along three visually distinct tracks: in addition to the Dendroids, he makes meticulous representations of fields of plants and fungi modeled in polymer, which he calls Replicants. He also creates automated artmaking machines that produce abstract paintings, sculptures, and drawings. These seemingly disparate forms all share a common interest in the distinction between reality and artifice, the natural and the manmade environment, all raising questions about the limits of human control.
Roxy Paine was born in 1966 in New York and studied at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico and the Pratt Institute in New York. Since 1990, his work has been internationally exhibited and is included in major collections such as De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. His Dendroids can be found at various museums and foundations, including the Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Washington; Wanås Foundation, Knislinge, Sweden; Montenmedio Arte Contemporaneo NMAC, Cadiz, Spain; and the St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri. Roxy Paine lives and works in Brooklyn and Treadwell, New York.