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Museum Link: N/A. Important Note: Cracked by XCOPY was an edition of 10 minted on the platform R.A.R.E. Art Labs, which is unfortunately now defunct. Many historic pieces of crypto art —many XCOPY’s, Hackatao’s, etc.—were lost when R.A.R.E. Art Labs went dark. What does that mean in practice? Though Cracked is technically housed within the Museum of Crypto Art (thanks to a generous donation from ArtonymousArtifakt), the file itself is inaccessible. Thus, the piece can’t be displayed or searched, and verifying its information is a challenge. Feel free to verify this information on Etherscan here:

View the artwork itself Here or Here (thanks to DaVinci)

Date Minted:  June 27, 2018 

Artist Description: “A tribute to the rat race and all those that run it and lose”

CohentheWriter’s Commentary: 

We crawl back through the history of crypto art, and we find it riddled with a teenager’s missteps and manglings: no care for the future, no care for consequences. Duh: Why would crypto art’s future ever be considered? Few believed that crypto art would even have a future, let alone the still-growing, still-evolving cultural impact it appears to be having at this moment in mid-2023 (the time of this writing). I have a hard time believing these early crypto artists could have predicted the size of this space today, its sprawling infrastructure, its perseverance through winter after winter. From what I understand through my conversations with the OG crypto artists and collectors, most people were not fixated on some idea of massive future success and notoriety but on simply surviving. The crypto winter of 2017/2018 was the kind that broke you. With Bitcoin having dropped to $6,000 a token from a high of $17,000 months before, and with Ethereum’s price having plummeted from $1400 to ~$400 in the same span (things would get worse; Bitcoin would fall to the $3000’s and Ethereum to less than $100), a real sense of existential annihilation probably propagated throughout the entire cryptocurrency environment, similar to what we’re experiencing today but with fewer folks to experience it along with. Platforms shuttered overnight. Investors lost billions. Making it through each day was an endeavor in its own right. Simply surviving here would have been considered a success. To thereafter achieve notoriety akin to only a handful of living artists would have been a pipe dream. A pipe dream’s pipe dream.

But history is weird. And here we are, half-a-decade later, talking about an artist who did just that: XCOPY. To think that this artist —who got their start creating hyper-frenetic gifs on Tumblr— would one day lord over the entire crypto art movement, pioneer a new glitchy art style (some call it Glitch, though others maintain that Glitch was a digital art movement pioneered by women, and especially the transgender community, throughout the 1980’s and 90’s; regardless, XCOPY appears to have repopularized the term) and regularly command six-figure sale prices for their work…; to a bunch of half-crazy cryptocurrency enthusiasts trading NFTs way back before anyone knew or cared what an NFT was, even suggesting such a far-off future might have seemed insane. 

Just as it seems insane today to suggest that, in fact, there exists a bevy of mostly-unseen, XCOPY artworks minted way back when in 2018. Editioned artworks which are ghosts of XCOPY, forerunners to the artist’s contemporary style, capturing the darkness, the dreariness, the insanity, the monstrousness, the color tones, and the composition of the works that were to come. And yet, most won’t know they exist. How is that possible? It’s hard to even PROVE they exist. How can that be? The answers lie in a cautionary tale for the ages: 

It’s hard to imagine that XCOPY, minting a few editions-of-ten on June 27th, 2018 on the then-thriving crypto art marketplace/platform R.A.R.E Art Labs, saw it as a realistic possibility that the platform would eventually go belly-up, a victim of this-or-that crypto winter. But it did. And since R.A.R.E Art Labs didn’t store the metadata for their NFTs with an archival system like Filecoin or IPFS, the works thereafter *poof* vanished, their metadata mostly inaccessible. Not just a loss for XCOPY, but a painful loss for all of crypto art history. It’s one of these “Lost XCOPYs” we have before us today: Cracked, a monumental XCOPY piece that seems to function as an announcement of sorts: “This,” the artist appears to be saying across time, “is the style I will use to further explore the same subject I explore here.” Cracked is a kind of XCOPY-esque Dead Sea Scrolls: It fills in vital gaps in our knowledge, if only we can, you know, get our eyes on it.

Like the other editioned pieces minted on that day — Dirtbag, Death Wannabe, and Disaster Suit, all sold for ~$10— Cracked is classic XCOPY. In the center of the frame, we find some kind of dispossessed monster. A scribbled thing composed in large part of black, criss-crossing lines, this creature is a monster of abstraction, only a few of its features actually quantifiable. Its mouth-full of cracked white teeth, sharp and sporadic, for example. Its color palette: a cosmic swirl of baby blues and pinks and purples, sometimes psychedelically-interwoven, other times staticky or swathed. Depending on your perspective, you may see two blocky swabs of black as eyes, or you may see the smattered white around them as a kind of blindfold. Thick black lines arc off of the creature’s outline and veer outward to the edge of the frame. The creature itself, and everything within its outlines, is still. Conspicuously still. Behind it, however, is the hellish XCOPY glitchiness that the artist has made their name off of. Black lines and staticky stalagmites of dotted blue/purple/pink flash like mad in the background, spiking in places and so appearing like a price chart or a heartbeat monitor; either reading works, I’d argue. With every frame-wide flash, these lines dissolve into blocks or switch places or grow/dwindle in thickness, but they do so quickly and with only a barely discernible logic, all to quite-exhausting effect. From the top of the frame, globs of pink color drool down the artwork, as if they really are the paint drippings their digital composition implies they are.

Cracked’s Artist Description, “A tribute to the rat race and all those that run it and lose,” heralds and reinforces a key theme in XCOPY’s works, the way the artist either overtly or tacitly situates their pieces within the world of crypto and NFTs. We can see this elsewhere, for example, in XCOPY’s 1/1 piece Right-click and Save As guy, or the open edition MAX PAIN AND FRENS, which reference mainstream cultural attitudes about NFTs and an oft-spouted crypto maxim, respectively. And as mentioned, Cracked heralds quite a lot about the XCOPY style that was to develop in the future. Yes, that style manifested before Cracked was minted, but this piece contains an early example of the bestial characters we’d see later, prevalent through many of the artist’s forthcoming works. The color palette is one often returned to, as is the smudgy and quasi-brushstroked composition, the intimation of Microsoft Paint, the presence of goopy and runny color that emulates physical paint even though its been created digitally, painstakingly. 

That said, Cracked is not XCOPY’s greatest artwork. Colors are weirder, brighter, more fascinating elsewhere. Characters would later be even more discomfiting. Compositions more complex, overall style condensed, commentary sharper. But all of these various aspects of XCOPY’s work are present in Cracked, and in a way that feels rare. In Cracked is the early artist unaware of all that is to come, their expansive future reduced to a single artwork that feels like a kind of trumpeted harbinger. An “I am XCOPY, hear me roar,” kind of moment. 

And thus, there’s a certain serendipity in Cracked’s general inaccessibility. Unless a solution appears in the future, only true XCOPY devotees will likely ever find their way to this piece. But when they do, they will find an exposé on all the artist would come to do later. Cracked is akin to finding an author’s early drafts hidden in their desk. It is akin to a statement of purpose, scribbled on a napkin in 1955 and given haphazardly to a lover, only to be discovered 60 years later by a granddaughter; she holds the ragged paper up to the light, stares at it in disbelief, and wonder if it’s her responsibility, or right, to share. 

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