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Source Link:

Date Minted: December 9, 2019

Artist Description: In a sea of purp - where all you can do is Drank  

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Illa_2020 has been at this a long time. A self-professed crypto art OG, Illa is an artist with a singular style, but one he seems to have spent his career exploring almost single-mindedly. Glitch is this man’s forte, and it’s glitch that stuffs his oeuvre. It isn’t so much the ironic, almost angry glitch art that, say, Max Osiris made his bones creating, but glitch that stems from an interest in the breakdown of form. With this in mind, Lean is a full encapsulation of the artist’s sensibilities, a glitch piece in the truest sense of the word, but one which uses the glitch style to indeed break down shape and form into abstract color and association, then spiraling that association around a central object, in this case the eponymous cup of lean, codeine cough syrup mixed with soda.

Having never drank lean myself, I’m perhaps not the best to comment on its effects. Nevertheless, from what I understand, we’re dealing with an opiate in the form of codeine, so a feeling of euphoria is present, along with a blank-headed letting go of reality similar to being quite drunk and/or under the effect of an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax. If Illa’s Lean is anything to go by, however, there’s probably a darkening of reality, a blending of colors, a loosening of reality’s edges so that life becomes fuzzy, objects lose their definition, and there’s a general blending of things, of sounds and sights and time itself. What a perfect subject for glitch art, which disintegrates objects into their textural aspects: color, outline, edge. In Lean, the only solidified image is the white paper cup in the center-right of the frame, though its edges are blurred as well, the white of its left side turning into lines of red, yellow, orange, the colors of a street-lamp in fog. All around the white cup —the only bright object to be found— there’s a wave of abject, formless color. Blues and purples and reds flowing into each other, curving downward towards the center of the piece and then back upwards like a reverse normal-curve, a wave of hallucinogenic water that carries the lone white cup within itself. Various glitch effects are used to achieve this appearance, all of them so slightly altering the composition’s minutiae. And, for those of us who might have been unaware, when we’re under the effects of some strong drug or alcohol, we’re said to be “wavy.”

I get the feeling that the piece doesn’t have incredibly sophisticated aspirations, at least in terms of social commentary, but what it lacks perhaps in commentative substance, it more than makes up for in its impressionistic mimesis, its quite adept capturing of a mind under the effect of a very certain substance. Are you familiar with music that’s been “chopped and screwed.” Individuals will take a song, downpitch the vocals until they’re a deep, rich, luscious baritone, and change the cadence so that the song plays much slower, tweaking the backing track to this same end. It’s this music style that I think of immediately upon seeing Lean, though perhaps that’s because the dominant color scheme here is purple —and its various components— and many chopped-and-screwed songs on youtube show the original album cover tinted purple. Take this chopped and screwed version of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” for instance. Aesthetically speaking, especially when familiar with the song, there is a druggishness that steams off its surface: It’s slowed, almost slurring, highly melodic but sonically depressed.

And Lean gives me the exact same impression. I feel my mind slowed slightly as I look upon it, as I consider its subject matter and its composition and its aim, which seems to be an attempt at capturing a mind that’s perhaps had a bit too much lean and now lets life melt away, simply sitting back and watching a world lose its hardness, fully blended, fully made up of brushstrokes, so to speak, and no compiled image. 

It’s not easy to create an image that so accurately depicts a certain mindset. Lean has a lot in common with the works of the abstract expressionists, although Illa is less interested in pure abstraction than his predecessors, appearing here to want to use abstraction to further emphasize the lone cohesive image. The object of attention. The eponym. The lean itself. It is here presented almost angelically, the lone identifiable image, and the lone physical bright spot amidst a churning sea of ambiguous and somewhat frightening color. It is presented here as a savior; perhaps it was to the artist at the time of this piece’s creation; perhaps it is to whomever’s perspective we are seeing the world through in this frame. Under its effect, holding it in one’s hand, I imagine it does seem like salvation itself, the thing grounding you to reality as the rest of your footholds dissolve underneath you, turning into sensation. Will the wave take that away too? Will your last handhold float away on the tide, leaving you to melt into the void like the world around you? Best not find out. Best to treat Lean like a cautionary tale and not an invitation. 

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