Why is Art Blocks in Marfa?

Art Blocks House in Marfa, TX

This article first appeared in Art Blocks’ Exhibition #0: Genesis catalog.

The Art Blocks house in Marfa, Texas, is dedicated to generative art created on the Ethereum blockchain, along with pioneering generative artwork that laid the foundation for computers being used as a medium for creativity. We are incredibly humbled to open our home in a town that has been a wellspring of inspiration for the Art Blocks team. Marfa’s history of pushing the boundaries in art makes it a fitting home for generative art to thrive among artists, creators, technology enthusiasts, and futurists.

An emphasis on permanence is at the core of Art Blocks. Each piece on our platform is created to establish provenance and immutability that lives on the Ethereum blockchain. Every project represents specific beauty through infinite possibility in a way that has never been done before. Marfa has a history of embracing this ethos, from site-specific installations to new artistic approaches applied to traditional methodologies. The town welcomes experimentation in finding the essence of art in everyday life.

It would be disingenuous to not acknowledge the inspiration of Donald Judd’s work in a story about why we chose to open our official gallery in Marfa, Texas. Judd’s 100 Untitled Works in Mill Aluminum had a profound impact on Art Blocks founder, Erick Calderon, when he first visited the site years ago. It changed how Erick thought about variance in everyday objects. For Erick, the intentional design of the space enhanced the everyday and made it transcendent. Even though it wasn’t coded in JavaScript and rendered on a computer, Judd captured the ideas of permanence and variability — two core tenets of on-chain generative art.

While a digital art gallery could be opened in any major tech-centric city, we felt that doing so would miss the point. Generative art has historically been underappreciated. It first started in the corners of computer labs by curious pioneers like Herbert Franke, Georg Nees, Frieder Nake, A. Michael Noll, Manfred Mohr, and Vera Molnár. These early artists innovated in the dark. The traditional art world thought of them as a passing novelty at best and, at worst, as a misguided attempt to create art. For decades, generative art attracted artists who found themselves talking to a small circle of other enthusiastic artists. Their audience was limited but enthralled. Very few galleries would recognize the genius in their algorithms, much less embrace an entire collection.

So, we decided to give our digital platform a physical presence that reflected its commitments, ideas, and goals. We knew it would need to be surrounded by a community that welcomes new approaches, is willing to experiment with new technologies, embraces creative experiences, and bucks tradition for the benefit of something new and exciting. Generative artists have been screaming into the ether for years. Our mission at Art Blocks is to build a platform for creative coders to unleash their artistic expression. A place that is welcoming and embraces innovation.

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