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[Version 10.0.18362.3=-098] Selfportrarentine

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: April 2, 2020

Artist Description: SSBhbSBqdXN0IFl > (c) Yus🞁ymon All rights Reserved

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

The great bulk of Yusay Monj’s work is an eclectic mess of Basquiat-esque graffiti lines and exploding colors, or else a kind of technicolor whimsicality ala Takashi Murakami, at least when the latter is being freely playful and not proving deceptively lecherous. It’s really impressive work, Monj’s is, with his Superrare collection alone displaying the prodigious work ethic of the art-obsessed, with more variations on individual themes than you’d get in a dozen symphonies by the most virtuosic of maestros. And then there’s [Version 10.0.18362.3=-098] Selfportrarentine, which is unlike anything else in the artist’s oeuvre, and displays the artist working not just with a different set of creative tools, but with an entirely different, and perhaps more revealing, sensibility. Although the human form is often displayed in Monj’s works, it is almost always drawn up cartoonishly, imbued with a bit of light-heartedness or zany, multi-toned spark. Selfportrarentine is, by contrast, dark and intricate and subtle. It plays off a unique set of expectations, forcing the audience, similar to the best generative art, to become complicit in the thematic creation of the piece itself. It shows us a vision, but takes it away. It moves, and just quickly enough to keep us ungrounded. It shows us a person, knowing full-well the kinds of expectations we will have of that person, the kind of emotions the human face will conjure, and how, as it changes forms once, twice, thrice, our minds adapt and play tricks on us, building Selfportrarentine into a thing of great beauty, which, of course, it always was, but now has a sea of observers to confirm.

If this is indeed a portrait of the artist, it’s a rather brooding one. With eyes cast downward and the face slanted away from us, with a black t-shirt, and and a passive look of menace on his face, the artist manifests himself with a seriousness: nothing threatening, but intense. His eyes stare directly at us, but from out under the crags of his brow. What gives the piece life is the rotating sequence of secondary attributes that flash and flitter around the screen, almost giving the artist himself the appearance of a 10k PFP project’s many varying attributes. The piece itself flashes through these attributes in rapid succession, and we see how his hair changes throughout the loop —in some points cascading in ribbons down the side of his face, in others wrapped tightly around his skull like a crown, and elsewhere wrapped over his mouth like a muzzle— or his face, which blazes with slightly different placements of the forehead and such (I get the sense that the artist used multiple self-portraits to create this effect, that it is less computer animated as much as it is stitched together), or with various tattoos appearing and disappearing from his cheek, his eyes, his forehead, his chin.

There’s a “generative” PFP project on the Solana blochcain that flew mostly under the radar, even by the standards of Solana PFP projects, called “Stock Tylers,” which took the concept of a 10K PFP project and flipped it on its head by not giving minters a randomly computer-generated piece of art, but a randomly-selected picture of an actual man named Tyler, who wears different outfits with different hats or hair styles or expressions and such. And I get the same feeling of experimentation and norm-challenging from Selfportrarentine, though of course this piece entered the world long before that one. But the idea of changing the human face into a number of iterations, and forcing the viewer to cycle through all the various iterations of emotion that coincide with each transformation, is really powerful. We see 5-10 different versions of the artist’s face in Selfportrarentine, and each one conjures a slightly-different connotation in the viewer, connotations which, of course, depend on who is viewing the piece. 

And in its way, I think that makes this a highly self-reflective piece, not just for the artist but for the viewer. Who do we see when we look at Selfportrarentine? It’s not just a face. There’s violence in the face. There’s the aforementioned menace in the face. I am a white man, and I have certain ingrained, implied racist biases that are imposed upon the world I live in, as soon as I look upon that world. I am an American. I have been sculpted by the post-9/11 world. I look at the artist’s face and, yes, I see it as threatening. It has brown skin. It has thick eyebrows and long, dreadlocked hair. It is different from me, and I cannot escape that understanding; it intensifies and heightens with every iteration of the artist’s face which passes in front me. This is not me. This is not like me. This is not like what I am accustomed to.

And Monj forces me to see myself in his face, too. He forces me to see how I differ from him, how our faces differ, what aspects of his face I focus on because they are different from mine. I am forced to reckon with who I am, and how I feel, and though I, as I assume many will be, am ashamed of the reckonings I discover here, though I push them away, though it hurts to write about them and realize them and put them out into the lightness of the white page for us all, for myself, to see, I am nevertheless made to see myself with further clarity, see my mind in heightened focus, observe all my biases just as I am observing Monj’s face.

And so perhaps the most necessary result of all this staring Monj’s changing face is interrogation. He is looking at us, at me, expectantly. As his attributes and accessories change, his face does not. It’s looking out, interested but accusatory, at all the things it is making us see, and all we are forcing ourselves to turn away from. It casts judgment on us, for a crime it can’t even know we committed. Prescient, powerful. Monj has created a masterpiece. Monj has created magic. 

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