GIVE. IMAGINE. LOVE. The Genesis Series by Paul Gerben
Paul Gerben has a keen awareness of space, capable of sensing subtle nuance and energy to engage in a dialogue with his large-scale mixed media works. A native New Yorker, the multidisciplinary artist transforms interiors with textured elements that pay homage to urban collages found on the streets of his hometown, and pairs them with the immediately perceptible visages of icons who have left an indelible mark on the silhouettes of fashion, the symbology of art history and songwriters who have shaped the voices and visions of generations.
His body of sculptures belongs to a Series aptly titled “Circle of Love,” which experiments with material and contrast to accentuate the interconnectivity between each letter of the word “love.” The inherent linear articulation of the word as it appears in Gerben’s uppercase typography nests each letter inside the next, demonstrating its palpable kinetic energy that emits the desire to revolve forward in perpetuity.
Throughout our long-distance conversation, I discovered that Gerben’s artistic practice has long embraced the methodology intrinsic to creating work for the blockchain. Furthermore, his signature “love” design predicted the token symbol distinguishing crypto coins. On the occasion of his NFT debut, the artist presents a Genesis Series featuring three unique works and tenants built upon the principles for one to “LOVE,” “GIVE,” and “IMAGINE,” with each exploring the sculptural and figurative weight of words and scale.
Before realizing work on a large scale, every idea begins with a design or architectural file. The details of materials are deciphered through animations before the piece moves forward in the fabrication process. Digital art has long been at the crux of Gerben’s practice but it’s only with NFTs that he’s felt digital art receiving the credibility it has long deserved. “I love digital art for the fact that it’s always [helped] speed my productivity,” he expresses. I have been [creating] digital art for over 25 years and I must now have over 100,000 pieces, but it’s always been frowned upon in the traditional art space. Now that everything is going digital, it’s even more exciting for me,” he states enthusiastically.
“LOVE,” the first NFT of the “Circle of Love” sculptures, pairs sweeping cinematic angles with an original soundscape of orchestral strings that accentuates the scale of a Grecian figure holding the sphere of LOVE on his shoulders into a monumental form. Carefully working with stone, mirrored steel, and copper elements, Gerben replaces Atlas who holds the weight of the heavens or sky upon his shoulders with a universal figure that has endured the collective weight experienced during the pandemic.
We are all connected at one point feeling like the weight of the world was in fact resting upon our shoulders, but ultimately Gerben believes that love unifies us as it is virtuous to give and overwhelmingly beautiful to receive. While the gravity of love cannot easily be measured, the sphere of its impact is lustrous and cyclical.
Unlike “LOVE,” the second NFT “IMAGINE” presents a sculptural form that has not yet been realized in the physical world. The animation has helped the artist continue in the development of a new series before ultimately becoming a physical work on a grand scale. The sound design was considered as fiercely as the impact of the imagery was, as Gerben wanted the two to “work seamlessly together,” complementing each other to heighten the experience of the imagery and to reveal the messages within the form. As the angles sweep across the matte letters, we discover words and phrases that are familiar in both vernacular, and that pay tribute to one of the most influential bands. We find the “help,” the location “Abbey Road,” along with the phrases, “come together,” “all you need is love,” “I want to hold your hand,” and “she loves you.” The messages of love inscribed in the totem of “IMAGINE,” make the sculpture soar as high as one is capable of dreaming. “I” is the only letter rendered in a copper hue, and thus the sculpture invites us to play with language, examining the gravity of each word that composes a word made famous by one of Gerben’s favorite musicians. Within “IMAGINE” we discover “I AM,” and we begin to consider that “I AM” all that “I IMAGINE.”
Finally, the third NFT, “GIVE,” assumes a square motif with another unique typeset. Giving back is a fundamental pillar of Gerben’s practice, whether it be through his collaboration with charities or supporting his colleagues. He shares that during the pandemic, “instead of buying myself anything material, I helped to financially support all of my friends that were struggling and that were broke. I was broke my whole life so I really can relate to that.” The lo-fi synthesizer creates a somber yet hopeful mood that accompanies the visual that giving has a greater impact when done in numbers. If we all give a little then we contribute to a collective resource that is limitless.
NFTs have revitalized Paul Gerben’s practice most unexpectedly. We can look forward to a metaverse filled with monumental sculpture and seductive architectural elements. We can only imagine what new works will give love to the blockchain.
A. Moret is an international arts contributor and curator. Her curiosity about the intersection of art and technology inspired the founding of Installation Magazine nearly a decade ago. As the Artistic Director and Editor-in-Chief she oversees all editorial, conducts interviews with artists around the world and develops enriching partnerships that make art a source of conversation and not intimidation. She is based in Los Angeles, CA.
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