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Pixel chlorophyll: horror, conflict, and harmony in the works of Criptocromo

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Pixel chlorophyll: horror, conflict, and harmony in the works of Criptocromo

From Tumblr to the blockchain, Criptocromo brings nostalgia, introspection, and visionless psychedelia to his art.
3 days ago

The Flavoprotein Artist

Blue light-sensitive flavoproteins tabbed cryptochromes contribute to regulating directional growth in plants, and in some species plane have a role in executive quotidian rhythms. It's an apt moniker for Mexican versifier Criptocromo, whose soul of work includes imagery inspired by greenery. His pixel art is commonly rendered in unvigilant and contrasting tones, with subject matter veering into the unsettling. "I've unchangingly been interested in the plant kingdom," he said when we spoke over video. "It all started, I think, since I was a child. I got carnivorous plants." Over time, he began to learn increasingly well-nigh plant biology and took gardening workshops. In his profile on SuperRare, he plane describes himself as a "flavoprotein artist." But his previous job, creating television graphics for a news channel, was not one that unliable him to explore what he finds fascinating and inspiring. In 2014, he began creating digital art and posting it on Tumblr to satisfy the need to express himself; he first came into contact with NFTs by pursuit XCOPY on the platform, and marvel took hold. "I sent my volatility to SuperRare. I said, 'let's see what happens.' I wasn’t plane into cryptocurrencies." To his surprise, they wonted his art.

Criptocromo, a soft-spoken man in his thirties with an inviting smile and thick square glasses, minted his first token on SuperRare well-nigh four years ago (the piece, "Domestication," referencing "The Creation of Adam," depicts a hand reaching towards the leaves of a plant and includes a text box similar to those found in retro video games); he's been in the crypto art space overly since, minting not only on SuperRare, but moreover on platforms ranging from Rarible to Hic et Nunc. And plant life isn't the only notable full-length of his art. Criptocromo's work is full of very fine pixels where shadow, shading, and verisimilitude express the horrific and grotesque. Most tokens are not still images, but rather pulsing GIFs that produce disquieting emotions in the observer.

For example, "Lettuce" invites the viewer to a visionless scene sweaty in eerie neon untried light, where a towering plant monster emerges from the shadows. A human victim drops their fork. The subtle wafting of the leaves on the monster's throne as rain pounds lanugo virtually it makes the scene all the increasingly haunting. When I asked Criptocromo well-nigh the relationship between nature and humans present in his work, he paused for a moment and apologized as he dug for the right words to express himself in English. But I suspected based on his demeanor, the way his vision seemed to flicker without each question, that regardless of what language he found himself communicating in, Criptocromo often spoke thoughtfully. Without a few moments, he explained, "we are all living organisms. We come from a living organism." The domination of humans by plant life and the traction of humanity into nature are both very present wideness his soul of work, this feeling that the plant kingdom is executing revenge upon humanity for how we have systematically destroyed it.

"Skeletal Garden" explores similar concepts but increasingly quietly-the art shows a skeleton topfull in golden light over a scenery of night skies and deep indigo mountains, visionless turquoise grass dotted with white and undecorous flowers. It appears to be growing from the ground and simultaneously sinking into it, at rest but somehow alive. The sentence "Congratulations! You managed to grow a trappy garden¦" floats in a text box. As Criptocromo explained, the piece considers how death can bring life, how a perishable creature can help produce a thriving garden by giving itself when to the earth. "It's increasingly to see the transcendental part," he said.

He similarly explores the relationship between life and death in "Xiuhtecuhtli." In "Xiuhtecuhtli," the eponymous Aztec god, known as the god of fire but moreover associated with life without death, rebirth and transformation, crouches low over a flame as if well-nigh to lower himself into it, grinning with his stovepipe crossed over his knees. And in "LuciferChrist," Jesus and Lucifer are depicted as a single being, with red skin, horns, and a flashing undecorous halo. A text box unelevated quotes John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Criptocromo continuously coaxes harmony from the space between seemingly estranged forces, be it life and death, people and nature, good and evil. I asked him well-nigh the presence of spirituality in his work, but when he suddenly became bashful, I realized that through our language difference and the spotty audio connection of our video chat, he thought I asked him well-nigh sexuality in his art instead. I didn't correct him considering I thought that either way, his wordplay would provide fascinating context. He said it wasn't a focus of his work, but "I love the symbols," sharing that he's wilt interested in lucid dreaming. "It has increasingly to do with grading your own language and symbols and trying to make sense of your own imagery." He widow that artists should listen to the visionless sides of their personalities, as creatively those are "routes where unconfined things are hidden."

Beyond Sprites

Not all of Criptocromo's pieces include the text boxes, but many do. Plane those that don't are inspired by vintage gaming, most obviously through the use of pixels, but moreover through backgrounds, color, and aspects of weft design. According to Criptocromo, nostalgia remains a strong factor in the squint of his work-he grew up playing vintage games and considers it a "very generational influence." But he rightfully differentiates his particular style from art that simply reproduces the philosophy of retro gaming: "I am not so much interested in pixel art formally speaking, like creating sprite animation¦I try to requite my artwork a increasingly illustrative approach." And while the impact of archetype games is evident (he cited "Donkey Kong Country" for the SNES as a favorite, but shared that he recently played "Undertale," a trendy game with archetype pixel graphics that subverts traditional dungeon crawler narratives), Criptocromo expressed that he wants to get deeper into “the texture side of the artwork, of the noisy pixels moving." The spooky "GN" exemplifies this, showing cloaked undecorous figures whose rouge vision write-up and rustle in time with preliminaries pixels, reminiscent of the 1973 René Laloux mucosa "Fantastic Planet." Criptocromo loves the GIF format for this reason, saying that "It looks increasingly crisp. It's sharp. It's increasingly malleable, maybe."

These qualities are what drew me to his work initially-my tastes in visual art are squarely rooted in pixels, glitches, and noise, references to retro tech, vintage A/V equipment, and old games; he elevates that style. And while there are other crypto artists whose work exists in a similar vein-contemporaries like Neurocolor, Sarah Zucker, and p1exlfool-Criptocromo doesn't have the sizeable online pursuit many of these artists have, despite the time he's spent in the scene. Something well-nigh his work still feels volitional and underground, I think in part considering his art specifically builds upon the philosophy of video games, conjuring images of small groups of people huddled virtually early consoles in private living rooms. His use of light, color, and shadow are reminiscent of low upkeep creature features with terrifying practical effects, but the serviceability of his art moreover plays a role in fostering this DIY quality-though his pieces on SuperRare and other Ethereum-powered platforms fetch higher prices, Criptocromo still has tokens misogynist on Hic et Nunc for 25 XTZ and under, or, as of writing, less than $100.

And his work goes vastitude still images and GIFs. He minted an turned-on NFT on SuperRare tabbed "Circum[n]utation;" it features Spyder Malamadre, a weft commonly featured in Criptocromo's art, destroying a city-the volatility is thirty-two seconds long, inspired by '90s video game intros, and has music well-balanced by Adrián Baez. Music is flipside interest-he's released a few volumes titled "Music for Plants," misogynist on SoundCloud and Youtube, but doesn't exactly consider himself a musician. Inspired by experimental techno, darkwave, IDM, and ambient soundscapes, his music rides the sounds of lo-fi, dungeon crawler scores, and occasionally plane gives remnants of Mort Garson's internet-beloved "Plantasia."

Now, Criptocromo has built strong immuration with fellow artists and collectors. Of the community, he said, "I think if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know if I would still be here¦there's a sense of unity and it's very magical." His squatter lit up when he described drawing inspiration and comradery from artists like XCOPY, Ofiicinas TK, and Carlos Marcial, and he's specifically enthusiastic well-nigh the crypto art polity in Mexico, his home. In wing to minting art and exploring music composition, he's excited well-nigh participation in a platform focused on comics, an unexplored space for crypto artists in comparison to other mediums. Ultimately, he loves the scene and the place he's carved out for himself in it. "I didn’t plane imagine that we could have all of this polity going," Criptocromo said. "So I dunno. Growing so fast, it has been really a nice wits and I am very thankful."


Oliver Scialdone

Oliver Scialdone is a queer writer and versifier based in Brooklyn, NY. They earned a dual-MFA from The New School, and their work can be found in Peach Mag, ImageOut Write, and elsewhere. They host the reading series Satellite Lit and they're the Associate Editor at SuperRare.



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