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Date Minted:  June 23, 2020

Artist Description: The aquatic world in a world to observe, to recreate, like the glacial landscapes. Both are a planet within ours, full of colors in the tropical case or minimalist in the glacier case, with strange species and wonderful animals each in its environment. This visual toy brings you a piece of that world in a fantastic setting.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Javier Arres, everyone: creator of wonderlands. An artist with an architectural eye, Arres’ works are dense and highly-detailed carnivals of sorts, cityscapes of a kind, and even when he’s creating less vast Metaverse accessories —glasses and guitar, for example— there’s an omnipresent sense of whimsy. Slot machine lights pulse. Guitar bodies grow plant tendrils, or they grow crystals, and entire metropolises are devoted to the billboard-like celebration of the NFL or La Liga soccer or cybernetics. Always, no matter Arres’ subject, there is a dense amount of detail, and there’s a real sense of life, of fun and personality and merriment. It’s serious artwork, but it never takes itself too seriously. Within the context of Arres’ work, then, Marinalandia is both an exemplar and a smiling outlier. It lacks the enormity of Arres’ other mega works. But it makes up for that lack of grandiosity with a thematic lightness and a unique exploration of environments. This isn’t a cityscape but a theme park, an amusement one could easily see families lining up to get in and enjoy. Here’s the truth: I freakin’ love aquariums, and I have ever since I was a child. In Marinalandia is all the remembered joy of my childhood: all the walking past the tanks and making weird faces at the fish and excitedly trying to spot the creatures hiding in tight corners of each menagerie. But in Marinalandia, too, is my own hindsight view of this childhood delight. The captivity. The repetitive lives we force these creatures into. And, more powerfully than anything else, the vastly different realities enjoyed by the creatures we hold captive and those out in the wild, like the Polar Bears which Arres draws along the right edge of the piece, doing in Marinalandia what they would be doing in nature: pawing at the melted pieces of ice of a disintegrating environment. The genius of Arres’ piece is in including both: seamless, unavoidable, everywhere. 

The sheer amount of detail in pieces like Marinalandia make an aesthetic description something of a pointless exercise. The goal of Arres’ artwork is to overwhelm, to be as dense and multifarious as a cityscape itself, as a large environment where bodies hustle and bustle from place to place, seeing different things, hearing different things, trailing their own histories and voices and opinions. I suppose we could split Marinalandia into four segments, the largest being as wide as the frame’s width, and which is an enormous tank filled with manta rays, parrot fish, all sorts of reef dwellers, and scuba diver in a purple, sea-floor environment. Just underneath this tank is a cybernetic foundation in which we can see tiny tanks that house jellyfish, sharks, and a treasure chest full of gold doubloons. Along the top half of the image, on the right, is a section mimicking an arctic tundra, complete with the aforementioned polar bears, with sliding penguins, with icebergs. Nearby are a large castle-like building covered in casino lights and bearing the image of a seahorse. And a large billboard bearing a ray’s silhouette. Slightly to the left, a second fish-tank, sizably smaller and bearing just a few single fish; every now and again a submarine rises up a roller coaster track and plunges down into the water. And then, finally, on the left-most segment of the image, a mermaid sits holding a trident, her long tail dipping down into the fish-tank below her. There’s a small shack with the image of a sea turtle, a large tower capped with a Diving Bell, and hundreds more details it would be futile to try and describe all of. I’ve done a poor job detailing everything to see in Marinalandia, but that’s by design. There are so many details, so many colors, so many little characters and tiny joyful additions, that to describe the piece is not only pointless, but a disservice. It has to be experienced, seen all at once, and visited, piece by piece, with one’s irises. 

Arres self-describes Marinalandia as a “visual toy.” It’s the first time I’ve heard that phrase. I remember writing an analysis of Han’s CryptoCube#88 and noting that such a piece was important less for its aesthetic qualities and more for what it would represent as a piece of Metaverse decoration in some virtual home or area. Similarly, Marinalandia seems almost wasted in the setting where we see it. On a flat screen in which it can be easily-clicked away from, Marinalandia is merely a fun distraction. But where its value would be maximized is on a surface in the real world —a picture frame, perhaps— where it could be seen again and again and again throughout small moments: every time one passes in a hallway, or above a desk. And eyes would constantly flit over to it, finding familiar bits of fantasticality, and discovering each of the miniscule details in real time. Because Marinalandia is a hypnotic work, and more so if given sufficient attention. I’d like the opportunity to see it again and again, to bring different POV’s and viewpoints to it, the whims of the day, wherever my eye is drawn during all these disparate moments. Marinalandia redefines the concept of a “toy” and elevates it to the level of artistry, to the point that any demarcation between the two seems superfluous. I could see a toddler and a twenty-something and a just-turned-sixty all staring at this piece with their heads cocked slightly to the side, seeking out details, finding a similar smile forming on all their faces. 



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