Meet the Curation Board: Raster Eyes
Meet the Curation Board is a series that introduces the Art Blocks community to the board members and their backgrounds.
1. What is your background as it relates to art and design?
I come from a family of established artists, photographers, jewelers, designers, and illustrators. As a kid, I was dragged through every contemporary art museum in every city my family ever traveled to and was always surrounded by discussions about art and artists. I eventually studied print, graphic, and web design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I’ve worked as a freelance designer for almost 10 years, and I’ve always been captivated by the convergence of science, art, and technology.
2. What is your background as it relates to crypto?
My first real introduction to Bitcoin was in 2011 by some friends who used the cryptocurrency to buy various uncommon, and otherwise hard-to-find, psychedelic compounds on the Silk Road dark web marketplace. One of these friends was mining bitcoin on his gaming computer as well. He was the first person who explained to me how bitcoin enforced digital scarcity and its potential to revolutionize financial systems. I actually tried to buy some from him at the time as a long-term moonshot investment but was too lazy to spin up a bitcoin node and generate a public/private key pair, which wasn’t nearly as simple then as it is now. That was one of my bigger regrets. I think BTC was trading under a dollar at the time. But I eventually got a taste when I was offered payment in BTC for some design work I did between 2013–2015 by an OG bitcoin community member.
During the 2017 market cycle, I got into Ethereum and researched the technology on a much deeper level. I looked into NFTs in 2018 but didn’t really get it. At the time, I only knew of Rare Pepes, CryptoPunks, and CryptoKitties. I just didn’t put in the effort to really understand how revolutionary NFTs could be. A year or two later, that same bitcoin enthusiast who gave me my first BTC asked me if I wanted to contribute to an NFT project he was working on. That’s when I went on a deeper dive and realized the multitude of use cases NFTs have and how groundbreaking they were from a technological perspective. Since then, I’ve contributed to various NFT projects and been an avid collector as well.
3. How would you describe your taste in art?
I would say I am most excited by artists who do something really different, mesmerizing, think about things from a fresh perspective, make me question the status quo, make me question my own perspective, make me feel uncomfortable, or that the assumptions we make about reality are just a mirage over an infinite field of possibility. I love artists that take art beyond just a piece you can hang on your wall or put on a pedestal, but rather shape reality in a way that transcends the ordinary human experience. Yayoi Kusama and Olafur Eliasson are examples of mainstream artists whose works really resonate with me.
4. What got you interested in Art Blocks?
I guess it would start with what first got me interested in bitcoin. The idea that we could synthesize scarcity in the digital landscape blew my mind, and the logic behind how the protocol functions are just so immaculate. Then, when I first learned about NFTs, I thought they were really interesting, but it bothered me that the artwork was always stored off-chain on some centralized database that could easily disappear someday. This was one of the main things that prevented me from getting interested in NFTs earlier on. If the NFT just points to an image stored on a centralized database, what exactly am I buying? If that server goes down, I now just have a token pointing to a broken image file. This kind of defeats the purpose of using an immutable database on which to create artworks. I couldn’t justify spending money on something with low durability and reliance on some trusted entity to keep the data intact.
When I first saw Larva Labs’ Autoglyphs, and all the artwork was right there in the token’s metadata, I realized that this was the beginning of truly durable digital art that can exist in its original state in perpetuity, with built-in scarcity, physically and in its entirety on the blockchain, with no need to trust someone else to keep a server running. This blew my mind yet again. And I see Art Blocks as the next evolution in this on-chain digital art movement.
In addition to just the technical aspect, I’ve also always been fascinated by generative art. My grandfather became friends with Harold Cohen when they were colleagues at UCSD’s Visual Arts Department in the 60s and 70s. Harold gave him a massive (I’d estimate 3ft x 8ft) super early generative art prototype of his that eventually found its way into my parent’s living room. It hung there all throughout my childhood and still does today. It was a simple piece, just a grid of single-digit numbers, each assigned a specific color (all the 1s are green, all the 2s are purple, etc.), but I would often find myself standing in front of it, losing track of time, trying to reverse engineer the process that created it and find the emergent patterns throughout its composition. It felt almost like a game or a puzzle to solve while at the same time being a beautiful piece of artwork.
When I was in middle school, my family got our first PC, and my dad gave me a CD-Rom with Harold Cohen’s AARON on it, a computer program that would generate portraits of people and still life of plants, or sometimes both in one frame. I again found myself enamored by his work, spending hours generating new pieces trying to wrap my head around how a computer, which is essentially a very complicated calculator, could be creating portraits of people who don’t even exist, unique never before seen artworks at a button’s click. So again, I see Art Blocks as the next evolution of this concept as well.
5. When you review an Art Blocks project for curation, what qualities are you looking for?
First and foremost, I’m looking for something that looks like the artist put a lot of time into polishing the generator to create something seamless and beautiful, or if it is not beautiful, it needs to be evident that the lack of polish was an intentional choice made by the artist. If it passes that most basic test, being unique conceptually is important to me. Then the collection having range and variation in color palettes and/or forms while still being a cohesive collection as a whole is also super important. One of the more interesting aspects of digital art is that the viewer can interact with it without damaging or putting wear and tear on the art, so playing with this concept creatively is something I appreciate. Finally, having a following as an artist is something I will look at as well, making sure the aesthetics of their Art Blocks collection fits the artist’s wider portfolio stylistically. Of course, a following isn’t important if the artwork is truly transcendent, and it is definitely exciting when seeing younger or lesser-known artists create something that reaches that kind of elevation.
6. What is your overall vision for the curated collection at Art Blocks?
The curated collection should contain all the most iconic, exciting, and elevating Art Blocks creations. Anything pushing the edge of Art Blocks’ capabilities or expanding the generative art landscape. And anything that has you pouring over a collection for hours, pulling apart all the details because you just can’t get enough.
7. Is there anything you hope to see in future projects?
I would love to see an Art Blocks project that generates generative art generators. Like each piece is its own AARON, a program that itself spits out random new pieces to look at when you click a button. There could be different types that do specific styles. Like, one does all portraits, one is all still life, one is all color fields, etc… with different specific color palettes as another element of variation. When Harold Cohen named AARON, it was chosen because it started with the letter “A” and he planned to create successive art generators that would follow it alphabetically. But he never did make any new generative art programs and instead just kept refining AARON.
It would be really fun to own a little collection of NFT art generators, each with their own style but an aesthetic thread that connects them, that I can pull up and just start generating unique never before seen artworks at a button’s press. And unless I screenshot it, the piece it created disappears never to be seen again. But the generator will always be there, like a little eternal robot artist.