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Ode to Apex 3.0

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Date Minted: February 18, 2020

Artist Description: During ETHDenver this past weekend, I stayed up till 4AM in the makerspace working on art, trying some new experiments with a gan software called RunwayML that was recommended to me to try by a fellow artist at the event.This is a piece I tokenized a few weeks ago called Ode to Apex 2.0 ran through Runway ML's neural network of every painting of the famous painter Kandinsky's work. This was my favorite I made that night, and the only one I'll tokenize from the series.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

I’ve yet to come across a work with a story like this one. Artist IRLart tells us, “During ETHDenver this past weekend, I stayed up till 4AM in the makerspace working on art, trying some new experiments with a gan software called RunwayML that was recommended to me to try by a fellow artist at the event.This is a piece I tokenized a few weeks ago called Ode to Apex 2.0 ran through Runway ML's neural network of every painting of the famous painter Kandinsky's work. This was my favorite I made that night, and the only one I'll tokenize from the series.” So now we know this piece’s origin point, influence, and artistic sensibility before we even dive in to what is exactly going on here. IRLart has done us a service. A service beyond just providing us with a fascinating artwork, a confluence of colors and associations, an artwork full of suggestions but devoid of anything concrete. Those looking for objects will be disappointed. Those interested in abstracts, however, are in for a treat. Here in Ode to Apex 3.0, we find IRLart exploring the exact line at which identification turns into abstraction, the very minute moment that an object loses just enough of itself to become unrecognizable. And Kandinsky, I presume, has something to do with that too. 

IRLart’s Ode to Apex 2.0, of which Ode to Apex 3.0 is a response, is a vital text for understanding this piece, its evolution. Ode to Apex 2.0 is full of concrete images, as surreal as they may be: a UFO, a faraway pyramid that could have been taken from a ge1d00t series, an enormous loop-de-loop artifact in the background that stands looming over everything, a moon, mountains, a pond. That piece isn’t the object of our attention today, but quickly, it’s a reasonably interesting collection of surrealist objects and textural exploration. The items therein may defy linguistic categorization, but we know what they are, for all intents and purposes. We see a sphere and know it’s a sphere, even if we cannot give it some further nomenclature. Ditto the giant shape in the background. We see its edges. We can’t name it, but we can comprehend it. It’s more aligned with surrealist tendencies than abstract ones.

Judging from IRLart’s Artist Description of Ode to Apex 3.0, what the artist has done is send the original piece through the a GAN software trained in the works of abstract expressionist Wassily Kandinksy —he of the geometric shapes, prodigious colors, and lines, each of his works a graphing notebook come to life Disney style— and pull it out the other side a changed beast. What has emerged is something far more in common with Kandinsky and the abstract expressionists than Magritte and the Surrealists, which Ode to Apex 2.0 appears to have drawn from. In fact, the old piece’s DNA has been thoroughly warped and twisted; what has happened to the items in the original piece is they have been destroyed entirely, replaced instead by indiscriminate swathes of color, and unidentifiable shapes that we would only ever guess at understanding because we can see how they emerged from the original work.

But like I said, the very DNA has been changed. There are no more identifiable objects. Those things in the first Ode to Apex piece have been stricken of their categorizable natures and reduced to suggestion, to overlapping bits of colors and waviness; if I didn’t know any better or have any context, I’d assume that Ode to Apex 3.0 was a work of glitch art as opposed to anything resembling the abstract expressionists. 

Although that perhaps says more about glitch art’s relationship to expressionism than it does about Ode to Apex 3.0 itself. Perhaps glitch is abstract expressionism for the digital age, using digital processes as opposed to Pollack’s kind of purely sensual paint splattering. Give the sensual responsibility to the computer and call it a day, why don’t you. 

When I look at Ode to Apex 3.0, I can feel my mind trying to find recognizable items within the composition. I am drawn to the color red, and the jagged lines nearby it, which my mind keeps trying to tell me must be some kind of an attempt to capture a lobster. There is, in the center of the piece, what seems like an Egyptian-styled eyeball. But I know this is all a mental attempt to order an un-orderable image, something which is a purposeful besottment of discordance. There is, really, nothing to see here in Ode to Apex 3.0. We feel our mind trying to see things within the composition because of how closely it hugs the line between abstraction and not. And it’s puzzling. It’s confusing. We are thwarted by a piece which, in truth, is abstraction squared. It’s best experienced without attempt to order or understand, but what can we do? Ode to Apex 3.0 anticipates our simian mind and plays with it, toys with it, sends it out the other end a bit more abstractly-composed, just like the GAN which provoked this piece itself. 

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