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Date Minted: June 14, 2020

Artist Description: mmntt by Manoloide 2020. Exclusively on Kate Vass Gallery

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

“Manolo Gamboa Naon is an generative artist whose interest is mainly focused on exploring the digital surface as a plastic space using code as an artistic material, based on experimentation with basic geometric shapes and colors.” That’s artist Manoloide’s self-styled description, taken from his SuperRare page, and it informs his art to a great deal, especially a piece like mmntt. Oftentimes with generative art, the essence of the piece seems to lie somewhere within the random reactions that a Generative algorithm will output when faced with certain inputs, or the differences between those outputs compared with each other. It takes many initiates to the Cult of Generative Art a while to realize that the generative nature of these pieces is not the goal in and of itself, but is only another tool through which the flat, glass, endless screen can be explored. But then those same initiates, upon seeing a piece like mmntt, need to subsequently unlearn that notion. Because the artist I think of most strongly when seeing mmntt isn’t a generative artist or even a digital artist, actually, but Jackson Pollack. Despite the lack of visual similarity between Pollack’s work and mmntt, the two seem to be drawn together by the seeming lack of any coherent, purposeful placement of colors, but how the spontaneous appearance of paint reveals the textures of a surface, the patterns we see atop that surface, and the interaction between these patterns when placed randomly beside each other. The generative nature is the rub. Regardless, I’m deeply drawn to mmntt. I’m not sure what I’m looking at entirely, but like with Pollack’s work, I know I’m drawn to it, even if it isn’t necessarily easy to understand why.

It’s probably a diminishment of intention, but with much abstract art, one is kind of asked up-front to put their logic and their verbiage and their conscious comprehension aside in favor of impression and experience. So what’s being impressed upon us here? Slow rollicking curves and peaks and parabolas, like mountains or ocean waves. While associations may appear to us, surfaces and textures are harder to pin down. Colors flow haphazardly one into another, pink and yellow and blue and green connected by proximity, not by any clear logic but not failing to be pleasant, calming, beautiful even. Many of the surfaces are covered by abstract puffballs which might be trees. They can be if you squint. Among the trees, blue lines drag downwards like trailing raindrops. It’s very easy to see mmntt as a mountain seen from above: green mountains on a rainy day beneath a wavy sky. But let’s move away from direct comprehension. Let’s move more into the realm of impression. What does this piece do to us? And what does it want to do?

Be mesmerizing, probably, as that’s what mmntt is best at. There’s a depth to this work, a get-close-to-your-screen textural exploration that’s absolutely engrossing. There are colors within colors, textures within textures, so exact and specific it calls to mind Georges Seurat’s obsessive fascination with exactitude of placement. There’s a three-dimensionality to this piece. There’s a 16-bit-videogame feel to it too. It’s realistic and impressionistic and has an illusory animation to it as well, something culled forth by the minutiae of the composition itself.

But also, the closer you look at it, the less it is what it seems to be when zoomed-out. There’s an irony to that. What does it say when close observation of a piece both increases your artistic appreciation of it but also degrades the overarching image it claims to portray? It forces us as observers to make a choice: What is more important to us here, the art or the artistry? If only one can be experienced at once, is that a knock against the piece, or is its ability to ask such questions symbolic of mmntt’s high interests and successful ability to explore them? 

The contrast seems to stem from the thin line mmntt walks, between total abstraction and not. It seems to want to be both things at once, a generative abstraction and an easily-recognizable, mimetic representation of a thing. Manoloide leaves out any clarifying information from his Artist Description, but I think it’s a safe suggestion that, between the title and the initial impression this piece gives off, what we have before us is a landscape painting, of sharp, rising mountains. But, as mentioned, that mountain imagery breaks down the further we examine the piece, seeming to arise accidentally, if at all. These could be dung piles or internal organs as easily as they could be mountains. But their very closeness to an easily-identifiable thing forces us to examine what ideas and shapes and concepts we ourselves are impressing upon the piece. When I say it walks a thin line between abstraction and not, what I really mean is mmntt is being pushed towards abstraction just as forcefully as it’s being pulled back from it. And that tension leads to a really fascinating confusion, both internally within the piece and in the ability of its observers to fully comprehend it. Because we can’t be altogether certain what we’re looking at, even though, at least in my case, all signs point towards my looking at a specific thing. In all honesty, I’m not sure of the mechanisms by which an artist goes about using two readings of a piece to subvert the other. It’s got to be the product of genius or of serendipity. But I’m entranced by it. I can very viscerally see that mmntt defies its own seeming desire to be something. It’s very human in that way. It can’t quite be itself. It doesn’t seem to know, or care much, what it is, only that whatever it is is not what it thinks it ought to be. Mmntt angsty. It’s difficult. It’s very very very interesting. And no amount of observation, thought, or criticism —I can’t help but think— will keep it from being so, being itself.

depatchedmode.eth has reacted to this post.

I love Manoloide's work and you do a better job than I could of describing the depth that he always seems to find.

The thing that I'll add is there is one aesthetic in generative art—maybe it's a specific category of palette / color space—that this piece occupies, that I think is underappreciated. LIA's "little boxes" is in the same space.

I think they're underappreciated because they don't sing as much on the current generation of display surfaces people use, but they will come into their own in future generations of display surfaces.

CohentheWriter has reacted to this post.

I'm always attracted to artwork that runs in the opposite direction of realism. Looking at this piece is almost like looking at an emotion, you know? And it's going to be evergreen because of that, imo.

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