Botanica Atlanta | Landscape Design, Construction & Maintenance


Atlanta Garden Design

The Dendroids

Posted by Stuart DiNenno on January 19, 2012 at 2:25 PM

It is not easy to argue that winter is a tree’s most beautiful season. But even though the colorful, shapely leaves that adorn deciduous trees throughout the year are noticeably absent, the shedding of those leaves does result in an ephemeral composition of bare branches standing in stark contrast to the winter sky.

Image: Christopher Neugebauer

Looking skyward through a dark silhouette of twisting, overlapping branches recently reminded me of a unique type of tree that a man named Roxy Paine has been planting. My first encounter with one of these trees occurred on the grounds of the Seattle Art Museum. It was a warm, June day, and a single specimen stood out from the rest of the trees in the landscape. It had the right form, with a hefty, supportive trunk and branches that organically curved, multiplied, and reduced in diameter as they grew further from this trunk. What caught my eye, however, was that even in the middle of summer this tree was not wearing even a single leaf. As I walked closer, I realized that its bark was not just smooth but actually shiny.

Images: Eldan Goldenberg and Mark B. Schlemmer

Stainless steel. Cut pipes. Welded rods. Rather than a living, fibrous tree, I was looking at a metallic sculpture that had been masterfully crafted to capture the life-like “language” of a branching plant.

The term “dendroid” is generally used as an adjective, and it describes something that is treelike, is arborescent, or branches like a tree. Roxy Paine, a sculptor, has repurposed this term as a noun, with which he has named his family of metal, branching art works. These “Dendroids,” each bearing their own title, such as “Impostor,” “Graft,” and “Maelstrom,” are the result of decades of Paine’s careful analysis of the organic growing patterns of trees. “I’ve processed the idea of a tree and created a system for its form,” Paine explains, “I take this organic majestic being and break it down into components and rules. The branches are translated into pipe and rod.”

Images: Taís Melillo, Mariëlle Ernst, and David Hoffman

While some of Paine’s Dendroids are perhaps the epitome of “art imitating life,” other pieces use this language of dendritic growth to form compositions that are quite unnatural. One of his works that I find most electrifying, “Conjoined,” is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art of Forth Worth. It depicts two trees of different, fictional species that appear to have fused to one another by the tips of their branches. In this and other Dendroids, Paine seeks to “expand the edges of the language” that he has digested and to propel his work “outward into those edges.”

Image: Thomas Hawk

Paine’s works have been exhibited and acquired by renowned art institutions across the world. In the United States, Dendroids have been installed at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, among others. In what may be his highest-profile work thus far, Paine even constructed a 5,000 square-foot installation on the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Images: Ryan Gessner and C. Over

Author: Sam Valentine,BLA, LEED AP


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