A 56-foot stainless steel sculpture of a tree by internationally acclaimed artist Roxy Paine will be permanently installed in the Kansas City Sculpture Park at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, beginning in early April. The tree was commissioned by Martin Friedman, Hall Family Foundation consultant for the Museum’s Sculpture Park for 20 years, and was funded by the foundation.
Ferment was constructed at Paine’s studio in Treadwell, NY and transported to the Museum.
“This tree will bear fruit for future generations of artists,” says Julián Zugazagoitia, CEO & Director of the NelsonAtkins. “It celebrates Kansas City as an incubator for young artists. Roxy Paine spent an early part of his career as an artist-in-residence here, so this is a tribute to a city that fosters young talent.”
In 2009, Martin Friedman was given as a retirement gift from the Hall Family Foundation an opportunity to commission a work by any artist he wished. He immediately chose Paine, whose work he had long admired. Friedman was involved in the Sosland family’s commission of Shuttlecocks (1994), the four gigantic badminton birdies distributed on the front and back lawns of the Nelson-Atkins. He began to follow Paine’s work during the last decade, as did Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art.
“Roxy Paine is one of the most important young sculptors today,” said Schall. “Ferment will be the reigning monarch on that hillside. It is an outstanding addition to the collection that will enlighten, perplex and delight everyone who sees it.”
Paine has 24 tree sculptures in North America and around the world, including Israel and Australia. All have trunks and branches but are leafless. The celebrated sculptures are shining, stainless steel pipes, plates and rods that have been cut, bent and welded into branchlike structures resembling trees. In the striking Conjoined (2007), first shown three years ago at Madison Square Park in New York and now installed at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, two 40-foot tree-like forms face one another with upper branches intertwined. Maelstrom, which gives viewers the sense of being immersed in a cataclysmic force of nature, was on view on the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from April through November in 2009.
Born in McLean, Virginia in 1966, Paine hitchhiked around the country at the age of 15, taking odd jobs and making drawings. He was a student at the Pratt Institute from 1986 to 1988, before taking a job with a Brooklyn fabrication shop, where he worked until he opened his studio in 1992. Paine has been praised for his supple, improvisational touch with a material as resistant as steel. He explores culturally infiltrated nature using various methods, sometimes combining painting and sculpture.
Paine gravitates toward materials that are generally regarded as ugly or abhorrent. Dry rot, fungi, poison ivy and weeds have all been featured in his work.
“Roxy Paine asks the viewer to think about how nature and technology coexist,” says Schall. “The cycle of nature is to grow and then break down. Fungi are part of that process. They make available nutrients that allow new life to grow–like trees. This remarkable cycle provides an essential component in the framework for his art.”