Materia Moda

Bright Moments London

October 12, 2023

100 x 1/1’s

0.1 Ξ

I have a romantic attachment to European Renaissance painting. The connection dates back to around 1983, when I first experienced painting on a summer teen tour as a high school student. Though I always drew as a child, art was never considered a serious course of study in my home. Prior to this trip I considered drawing a skill-based activity, like juggling or riding a unicycle. I didn’t realize one could make a life as an artist. My family did not frequent museums nor did I meet many artists growing up, Though my father’s mother and a neighbor painted, their activity was always contextualized as a hobby to me; they were both primarily self-trained.

Spirituality also wasn’t a part of my childhood. We were not a religious family and day to day concerns were very focused in the concrete realm, paying bills, achieving in school and preparing for a sustainable profession. Though I tried to adhere to this path, I struggled quite a bit as a young person to ‘fit in’ and align my (quite abundant) energy and passion with what felt like a too constrained and uninspiring path. For many years I believed if I could just try harder and learn to stifle my impulsivity and digressive tendencies, I could fulfill my parents’ expectations. (In retrospect, my parents’ expectations were a lot less defined than I imagined at the time.)

The summer teen tour took us from Madrid to London via numerous stops through Western Europe. Our visit to the Prado had an immediate impact on me, especially seeing all the Goyas. Something felt important and solemn in the museum in a way I had never considered art capable of. However, it was standing before El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, in Santo Tomé, in Toledo that made the most dramatic impact. I remember feelings of excitement, intensity and awe staring at the painting. Years later, studying in Italy as an art student, I would have a similar reaction standing before Piero Della Francesca’s The Resurrection, in Sansepolcro. Over the years, that feeling has occurred countless times standing in front of paintings, in churches, museums, galleries and in my own studio.

A challenge for me in the Web3 space (really since I began creative coding in the 1990’s) has been establishing connection between my coding practice and my background in painting. Though I feel uniquely built for Web3, integrating complexities of computation with aesthetics and even enjoying aspects of the market dynamics, I’ve struggled to find similarly palpable, emotional (dare I say spiritual) reactions to media/digital art objects/experiences that I have to certain paintings. There are notable exceptions, such as Bill Viola’s The Quintet of Remembrance for example, but of course this piece has strong references to European painting.

It is this from this backdrop that I developed Ancient Automata for my first Bright Moments show in Venice Beach and now Materia Moda for Bright Moments London. Both of these collections are reflections on the history of painting, technology and the post-modernist-post-computational times we live. In Ancient Automata I was focused on sacred structures as manifest through large-scale computing edifices.

Materia Moda is a more intimate reflection on maker/coder/model. There is a fashion sub-theme that runs throughout the collection, playing with notions of beauty, the viewer’s gaze and the model’s agency as engineer/technician. In curating this collection I was searching for moments of heightened, albeit paradoxical, tension between more obvious notions of beauty–grace and gesture of the model–to less obvious ones–crumbling, disintegrating, fragmented, complex surfaces and chaotic technology. 

The female models/technicians are makers/keepers of substance (materia) in an often crumbling, disintegrating techno-sacred space. Has the laboratory replaced the church? Are these women conservators of social norms, agents of change or mere pictorial tropes reaching back romantically to the past. I don’t have answers to these questions, and I worry at time these images cross a line. But that too perhaps shines a needed light on biases and societal conditioning, market dynamics, and the current state of the Web3 world.