The project is the latest to emerge from the museum's blockchain initiative.
Pale, male and best-selling. It's a slogan applicable to the kings of today's generative art scene: Tyler Hobbs, Dmitri Cherniak, Larva Labs, Jack Butcher. Unfortunately, the main creators of the original and most lucrative NFT genres largely reflect the homogeneity of their analog ancestors – kudos to Bridget Riley.
New York generative artist Emily Xie is acutely aware of this imbalance. In fact, it's the one she extends to the world of software engineering she worked in until just over a year ago, when the success of her textured and teasing generative NFTs allowed her to code and to create full time.
In Xie's latest series, "Interwoven," the Harvard-trained artist redoubles his efforts to disrupt what has until now been a male game. She created 100 quilt-inspired generative NFTs, which dropped on June 7.
“Interwoven” is the latest installment in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Cactoid Labs joint blockchain initiative, Remembrance of Things Future, which inspires digital creatives to riff on works from its collection. Xie was instantly drawn to LACMA's old textiles, but honed in on a late 19th-century quilt that's been hidden away in the archives: Martha Lou Jones' "Bullseye," a tawny-colored vortex kaleidoscope that , from a distance, appears lined with rope and rust. leather.
"Visually, it embodies generative art as it captures a strong tension between the human and the computational," Xie told Artnet News. "Quilting and generative art involve algorithmic processes and I wanted to explore those parallels."
Jones' quilt was not computer programmed, but its precise scheme of squares and circles certainly seems suggestive. Lean (or zoom) a little closer, however, and imperfections and variations become apparent, an effect that captured Xie's imagination and fueled his design process.
Indeed, there is a sweet historical interaction between textiles and computers. Textile design is a precursor to early computers through the invention of the jacquard loom, which used punched cards to produce weaving patterns and would inspire English polymath Ada Lovelace to write an algorithm for a mechanical computer system called the Analytical Engine . Loom inspires computer and vice versa.
“Quilting and computing have deeply gendered histories. The women have contributed significantly, but still face an unsettling sense of invisibility or erasure,” Xie said. "I was hoping to spark some thought on this by weaving the two areas together."
Xie's quilts don't appear as generative NFTs - at least not as we know them from the brutal pixelation of CryptoPunks, the harsh Sol LeWitt-isms of Autoglyphs or the booming rectangular fields of Hobbs' Fidenzas. Of course, there's a pattern (read: algorithm) at work: a warm background color layered with a large irregular shape and a constellation of bead-like circles.
But they appear singular as a person's darling blanket, each strewn with a figurative animal (a skinny elephant, a prancing horse, a duck wearing a tie), and small marks, coffee and mud stains not yet removed. They don't quite smell like an old blanket, but almost.
Here, Xie's ability to bring generative art to life, to break up its often rigid formalism, predates "Interwoven", but may have something to do with the research that preceded coding. Xie watched video tutorials on common patterns, visited local textile stores, and read many articles about its history and development.
"We were thrilled to see Emily gravitate around quilts in the museum's collection," Lady Cactoid of Cactoid Labs told Artnet News. "I am struck by the textures, the organic shapes and the sense of movement that she is able to convey thanks to her algorithms."
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