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Toxin or Psychogen?

Roxy Paine at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts,

31 Mercer St, NYC March 1- Apr26.

Reviewed by Flash Light.

This show was more focused than Roxy's last one at Feldman. Though there again seemed to be a range of styles, commonalities in the work, and especially in the ideas addressed, were soon apparent.

A large sculptural floor piece at the entrance, "Model for an Abstract Sculpture," resembled a plastic model kit as it comes out of the box, unpainted and ready to be broken apart and assembled. It suggested that much art today is merely built by assembling pre-existing ideas.

This theme was echoed by "Model Painting," which offered plastic replicas of impasto brush strokes (also ready to break and assemble) and by "Untitled (Specimens)," in which plastic brush strokes and drips were mounted in a display case, each numbered, recalling both a didactic museum display, and a "paint by numbers" system.

Across the gallery there seemed to be growing a field of psilocybin mushrooms. Alas, they were plastic replicas, painstakingly painted and "planted" in the gallery floor by the artist. Another trompe l'oeil case offered "Poison Ivy Field (Toxicodendrn radicans)." So realistic were these, that one had to ask if they were real, and that advanced the question of what "real" means in art today. Is it poison, or psychogen?

But the culminating question was posed by "Paint Dipper," a large kinetic piece controlled by a laptop computer. A canvas hung suspended above a rectangular "dipping" vat. Eventually the lid to the vat popped open, and the canvas descended into a white latex paint mixture. It was then withdrawn by the computer and allowed to dry, and the cycle began again.

On the wall was a canvas produced by five weeks of such dipping. The built up drips hung like stalactites from its bottom. Variations in the program for different paintings assured that no two white canvases would be exactly alike: a sort of automated Ryman machine.

The mechanization and commodification of art has rarely been expressed more eloquently. Appropriately the canvas was the first piece to sell, testimony to Roxy's understanding of the art market. Asked about the sale, he quipped, "After all, it took me five weeks to paint it."

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