Sometimes a squiggle is more than just a squiggle.
What looks like a giant worm, made of purple, blue, green, yellow and pink blobs piled atop of each other, is positioned on steel rods in front of the south Minneapolis home that houses the Porch Gallery.
“This is what came out of it,” said artist Mark Schoening, whose gallery is literally on his porch. “We’re up to 90 e-mails with the creative team. … This was way more than just building a sculpture.”
That’s because this seemingly benign squiggle was based on “Chromie Squiggle,” the first project created for Art Blocks, a blockchain technology company that hosts artists’ NFTs. It actually didn’t exist in the physical realm — the original squiggle was produced using generative code and is part of an edition of 10,000.
Now it’s something of an advertisement for Texas-based Art Blocks, which Schoening and his wife, Dawn, discovered while passing through the Southwest during the height of the pandemic.
Visitors walk up the steps to the porch, which is painted with rainbow squiggle designs, then peer through the windows to view an exhibition called “Vortex” that opened Thursday evening. Two monitors in a front room display a series of 1,000 animation NFTs by artist Jen Stark, all of them hosted by Art Blocks — and already sold.
Each has its own wild psychedelic design: colorful explosions, zig-zag-filled black holes to disappear into, wavy ripples of concentric circles, something between the apocalypse and natural forms.
To learn more about the NFTs, visitors can scan a QR code located on the wall, or grab an Art Blocks brochure to look through as they sit on a bench covered in zig-zag rainbows.
Stark, who is from Miami and based in Los Angeles, said NFTs came at the right time for her. She makes visually engaging murals and digital art and already had an Instagram following of more than 200,000.
Thanks to NFT sales, Stark said her income has increased eight-fold. She sees this show as “just a way to showcase art, regardless of if it’s for sale or not.”
Stark is in town this weekend to speak at VeeCon, a three-day conference at U.S. Bank Stadium that showcases leaders of the NFT and pop-culture worlds. Guests include artist Beeple, who set off the whole NFT/art craze in April 2021, Deepak Chopra, designer/illustrator SLOTH, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams, and more.
This show is something of an experiment for Schoening, who wanted to learn more about NFTs and has dabbled in the space himself.
“I had a friend who said, ‘Mark, you make these sculptures, but you also make animations — you should just try and make an NFT,'” he explained. But the cost of “gas” — the computational energy needed to mint an NFT — was around $600 at the time, and it didn’t make sense. He later found a site called Tezos, which costs just pennies, but it still didn’t feel right for him.
“I’m very anxious on Twitter. … I can’t blast my own horn on it like 24 hours a day,” he said. “That takes a tremendous amount of effort.”
But Schoening still wanted to explore what could happen between the traditional and NFT art worlds, and doing that through his experimental Porch Gallery seemed more plausible.
“I’m really curious to see who’s going to come to this show from the local art community,” he said. “I have no idea, but [this show] feels like something that’s a bit different.”
When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily through June 17.
Where: 3306 Park Av. S., Mpls.
Alicia Eler is the Star Tribune’s visual art reporter and critic, and author of the book “The Selfie Generation. | Pronouns: she/they ”
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