Denuded Lens: Roxy Paine creates a life-size airport security checkpoint diorama for a New York show

Denuded Lens: Roxy Paine creates a life-size airport security checkpoint diorama for a New York show

American artist Roxy Paine’s exhibition at New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery is inspired by an unlikely muse: an airport security checkpoint.

Shown alongside wooden sculptures of mechanical objects that comment on labour, ’Checkpoint’ is a near life size replica of its namesake, which Paine sees as representative of both banality and larger social anxieties. The familiar scene, which has been made entirely of maple wood and supported by an aluminium structure, is rendered in minute detailed.

From the rubber flaps and rollers on the luggage conveyer belts to the ubiquitous office chairs that security personnel lounge on, everything has been created with impeccable verisimilitude. The visible wood grain and the soft, uniform hue add a further layer to the vista, decontextualising it from its mundane reality and allowing viewers to examine a scene that is often scurried through as quickly as possible with a fresh eye.

Airport security is part of Paine’s ongoing Diorama series. The Queens-based artist previously immortalised a fast food restaurant counter, ’Carcass’, and a control room in birch and maple wood for an exhibition at Chicago’s Kavi Gupta gallery last year. On choosing each location, Paine says: ’I think about spaces that exemplify and reflect certain crucial aspects of our current episteme. I’m also interested in the spaces that we exist in, and pass through, but don’t really see. A crucial aspect of these pieces is transformation in the alchemical sense; taking an element that is banal or base or worthy of scorn - depending on your perspective - and transmitting it into a meditative reflective moment.’

Far from just being straightforward replicas, Paine’s dioramas intentionally blur the boundaries of reality. ’The scenes exist in an uneasy balance between being an idealised shadow and hyper specificity,’ he explains. ’They are not based on one specific place, but an amalgamation or conglomeration of places, representative of all, but specifically none.’

While ’Carcass’ was pieced together from five years worth of photos taken in numerous fast food restaurants, ’Checkpoint’ was developed on computer due to its geometric complexities. In ’Checkpoint’, a 70-ft depth of field was compressed into just 17 ft, creating a forced perspective that required its subsequent components to be cut at different compound angles - a technical challenge, to say the least.

Ultimately, it was the qualities of a security checkpoint that appealed to Paine the most. ’My works are translations between two disparate and seemingly incompatible languages. [A checkpoint] is machinery for processing humanity,’ he says. ’I was excited to tackle the aspects of expressing, exerting and revealing its power structures and the intricate minutiae of its details and the forms of its functions.’

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