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h໐ຟ r໐๓คຖtiŞ

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  March 20, 2021

Artist Description: 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳🟣🟣🟣🟣🟣🟣🟣🟣

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

As strange as it seems to even suggest as much, h໐ຟ r໐๓คຖtiŞ is actually pretty benign by Sam Clover’s standards. The artist, who alternatively calls themselves PLANTTDADDII, is a master of oddity. The pieces in their oeuvre are explosions. There’s no single color palette that dominates over any others; the entire rainbow is represented, with each color stretched like taffy into their many minute augmentations. And the subjects of these pieces are even more batshit. Sometimes they can be described with actual words (at least in theory), like the pair of mantises which are the subject of h໐ຟ r໐๓คຖtiŞ. Elsewhere, however, monsters are made out of mushroom stalks, frogs carry bird-head-shaped humps on their back, both of them covered in ice cream, and in a piece like c t r l, a woman’s long red braid turns slowly into a menacing centipede, mandibles extended and pointed right at you! Good thing we have this trusty screen in the way. Yes indeed, the screen acts as a kind of portal. In Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies, mirrors sometimes took on a liquid quality, and one could reach their hands inside, the accompanying sound effect always a kind of baritone-heavy gloop gloop. It’s almost the same principle with Clover’s artwork. So vivid are the colors, and so close are the subjects, and always seeming to point at us, as if inviting us in, that it’s less like there’s artwork on the other side of the screen and more like there’s a whole world waiting for us there. If we could only find a way in, we too could be blanched over in such stunning hues, witness to all kinds of weird whimsy. h໐ຟ r໐๓คຖtiŞ applies that weird whimsy to even its title. I have no idea how those actual characters could even possibly created (thank you Command-C and Command-V for allowing me to write this piece). Likewise, I have no idea how a mind could imagine the contents of this piece: the marriage of two metal-plated mantises staring out at us as if waiting for us to take their photo. And just like that, we’ve been incited into wedding photography.

I’m going to do my best to write down what’s actually happening in this piece, but even as I stare at it, I’m fairly confident my words are going to fail me. Like all of Clover’s works, h໐ຟ r໐๓คຖtiŞ is better experienced, better seen than understood. And yet, here I go, trying. 

As mentioned, this piece seems to capture mantis nuptials, with the two eponymous insects standing as if bipedal, clinging tight to each other. Instead of bright green skin, they are decked out in shimmering silver hues, like they're coated in some kind of metal. The texture here is really brilliant, the color itself managing to exist at the crossroads of grey, gold, turquoise and purple, with each individual color overt in spots where the light shines on their exoskeletons. Look at their big round indigo eyes. Look at how the taller one’s mandible is lightly grasping the smaller one’s antennae. I will say, if Mantises were to have recognizable love languages, Clover has done their due diligence in imagining what they might look like. The background is a bright teal color, and so are large portions of the insects’ skin, although they seem to be draped over with a kind of cloth of the same color. But let us not think for a second that this is an unstrange piece, despite its subject matter. We haven’t yet mentioned the copious amounts of purple goop which slosh over the two characters, around their necks as if scarfs, around their torsos and their hands holding each other. As the viscous liquid descends down the length of the frame, it grows pustule-like bumps, bumps which overtake it completely alone the image's bottom edge, leaving  only the jewel-like magenta blobs. These blobs cover the empty areas of the piece just as they cover the right-most Mantis’ arm. I couldn’t stand to guess what that stuff actually is.

Which is a pretty common motif throughout Clover’s work, the marriage of recognizable kinds of surrealism with totally abstract and unintelligible details. The mantises we know, but the goop we do not. And the longer we look at the piece, the less it makes sense. Sure, we invent possible explanations for the scenarios we’re seeing: perhaps these two are post-coital, and that goop is, well, post-coital goop; or perhaps they are standing at the altar, covered in the mantis equivalent of thrown rice. Maybe one of them has recently sneezed. Or maybe it’s none of these things at all. 

Ultimately, the lack of explanation works in Clover’s favor. His pieces are such technically-accomplished textural and color and figural studies, it would be somewhat a distraction if we were to focus too much on the underlying narrative machinations behind them. These pieces are extremely impressionistic, and even majorly emotive. Because —and perhaps it’s the postures of the two characters, or perhaps it’s the color palette— real emotion leaks off this piece: the love and tenderness between the two inhuman characters is profound and overt. Such emotion manages to eke off the screen despite how all the abstraction threatens to bury it. Maybe h໐ຟ r໐๓คຖtiŞ is too whimsical and weird for its own good. Perhaps Clover could create incredibly affecting artworks if only they gave themselves a chance. For now, we’ll have to make do with mantis love. We’ll have to make do with imagining this piece —goop and all— the next time we stumble on a Praying Mantis in a rosebush.

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