Written by Nitika
Robness is one of the first well-known crypto artists in the space. In this interview, he talks with Micol from VerticalCryptoart and Colborn Bell from the Museum of Crypto Art about his crypto art journey, experiences in the NFT space, and what inspires his works. This talk is a deep dive into the early days of CryptoArt, the start of an artistic revolution, and a conversation around what CryptoArt is all about.
In 2014, while playing music with his band and creating physical art, Robness became interested in cryptocurrencies. His first exposure to tokenization was through the Bitcoin Counterparty network. Following that, he began researching blockchain technology and became enamored with the idea of burning tokens and creating assets with names. His foray into the crypto art world was through the Rare Pepe Community – link to an interview and article about Rare Pepe’s here.
Robness’s fearless creative expression stems from his enjoyment of the creative process and the freedom that comes with it. He explains that as a musician with no artistic background, he has a detached view of his work because he enjoys experimenting and jumping from one art form to the next. His entire body of work is an expression of that particular moment in time.
He talks about the inspiration behind the Great American Supernova, an art piece created with the app Artbreeder in the style of portrait morphs. He explains how he creates these morphing portraits. For him, it was similar to working with a synthesizer. His response to the political landscape in the United States is the subject of the said piece.
The conversation goes on, deep-diving into his earlier pieces.
Robness speaks about how he discovered the uncanny similarities between Satoshi and Shakespeare as history makers while working on “From Satoshi to Shakespeare” and experimenting with GAN AI tools. In the conceptual work “Crediting Sources” one can see his stance on copyright issues. He shares his personal experiences with SuperRare that asked him to cite sources. It is a simple textual typographical piece that comments on the issues in a tongue-in-cheek way.
He dabbled in photo warped abstraction art with his “TechnOrigami” collection.
His cave series is inspired by the work of the famous 20th-century artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. He imagined a hyper-future world when he created this piece. The concept is that if the entire civilization were wiped out, the only thing left behind would be computer parts, and when a new primitive race arrives, they reclaim the machines in their unique way.
The conversation goes on to speak about the portrait work “A. I Deity” imagined what the Deities of modern society would be. He discusses how one can forget history and, if discovered, misinterpreted it in various ways.
He believes that the old-school galleries pigeonhole artists, forcing them to create formulaic work, which is constraining. His “Wallet is an Art Gallery,” a psychedelic 1960s art piece, is a commentary on how our wallets are art galleries.
Colborn, Robness, and Micol then go on chatting about the early days of Rarible. This first community-owned open marketplace started to become very popular around September / October 2020, where everyone was tokenizing whatever they wanted. Robness and another OG crypto artist Max Osiris experimented with this new idea of tokenization and minting many art pieces together. Once, they spammed everyone with joke NFTs. They were experimenting and exploring new mediums and inventing new stuff along the way. They found the site design of Rarible accommodating new artists with new ideas. The early artists at Rarible had the advantage of experimenting with the medium and their creativity as the gas fees were low. The entire community began to develop into what it is today.
When Rarible introduced their governance token – $RARI – the crypto art space reached new heights – it showed artists there could be added income in addition to tokenizing artworks.
Robness quotes: “the more you see where technology is going and attribute it to NFTs and crypto art, the further you can go.”
The conversation goes on with Colborn describing how Robness would release a new piece of art in a different style at a high price, only to slash the prices by 80% for 24 hours one day, creating a frenzy among collectors to buy it. He first became aware of Robness through the art piece “Spirit mother.exe” on the SuperRare platform. Robness’s glitch art, cyberpunk aesthetic, and unbridled creativity drew him in. Max Osiris and Robness’s works on Rarible were also Micol’s first real memories of the crypto art world when she first started dabbling in the space.
The conversation then shifts to the artist’s collections.
Robness is one of the most prolific crypto artists, having created over 3.7k pieces on Rarible. Not only that, but he has an extensive collection of incredible art pieces from talented people all over the world, including Twerky Pepe‘s, Xcopy‘s, Miss Al Simpson‘s, and Gary Cartlidge. One of the first pieces he collected was MaxOsiris’s “I can can I I everything else,” which he regards as a masterpiece. It’s an advertisement for artificial intelligence in which a monster types on a jellyfish typewriter.
One of Robness, prized possessions is a piece titled ‘Idiot.’ by Sean Williams. The simple concept of capturing a moment of conflict, the composition, and the lighting of the photo drew his attention. Colborn compares the piece to Robness’s spirit of “wreck the wall and call it art.”
Robness also talks about another OG crypto artist Norman Haman and the piece ‘The Big Strange‘ – this is a unique piece because it is the artist’s more personal work – made with digital strokes. Robness was drawn to this piece because of its color scheme. With an affinity to music, he and Norman have collaborated on various artworks. He appreciates Norman Haman’s art pieces, a painter with a long history in analog paintings. The artists’ digital paintings are available as NFTs on platforms like Super Rare and Rarible.
Colborn brings up Norman’s art piece ‘Sotheby’s Auction- Android Plaza,’ which sparks a discussion on the recent CryptoArt and NFT sales done by auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christies.
Robness shares that Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions will not work in the long run for crypto art because the auction houses are deeply rooted in the old traditional art world. They have no interest in understanding the lives of crypto artists or the events that led to the current state of things. That was evident from the misunderstandings between the CryptoPunks and Christie’s. He believes that crypto art serves best with a new type of auction house and predicts that a crypto art piece could be worth $300 million or more at some point in the future. He shares how he became a spectator of Trash art, an art form that he initiated in the crypto art space. He tells stories about how it all started to what it is now. During the initial days, Micol remarks there was a sense of playfulness before the money and the hype.
Robness commends Colborn and the Museum Of Crypto Art for their contributions to the crypto art world.
To quote Colborn, “art has always been about people on top, pulling new people up… we need to gather the heroes that represent the ideals and vision that we have for crypto art, rather than having someone else tell us what is and isn’t representative of us.”
The Museum of Crypto Art is a community-driven organization that strives to educate everyone about crypto artists and crypto art, bringing collectors and artists together and preserving the crypto art movement. The Genesis collection includes 160 pieces by 160 artists and an invitation for collectors to bring in crypto artists they think were foundational.
The idea is to level the playing field by informing everyone about the early crypto artists’ stories and artworks. As part of the MOCA’s genesis collection, Robness’s piece “Insert crypto to play” will be donated to the Foundation. The style of the work is similar to that of arcade pop art with bold designs. It demonstrates that the concept of crypto art can be fun to experiment with. The piece speaks volumes about what the crypto art world means to foundational artists. Innovation, freedom to create outside the social norms, and experimentation built today’s crypto art space.