CORPORA: How the potato became the focus of Kevin Abosch’s new Series

By A. Moret 

An unidentified presence appears in suspended animation. Floating against a black abyss, a carefully composed asymmetrical form created of either organic or artificial matter forces us into a state of contemplation. We evaluate the subject, studying its uneven surface characterized by a fibrous texture, calloused imperfections, and traces of delicate sprouts with the characteristics of human hair. The title identifies the subject as a potato, specifically an organic Irish spud photographed by conceptual artist Kevin Abosch.  

In 2016, Abosch’s “Potato #345” (2010) made headlines after it was sold to a private collector for over $1 million. A root vegetable nurtured by the soil of the earth was uprooted, its veil of dirt removed and then meticulously framed against a black backdrop illuminated by a single light source. The photographic process preserved the modest potato and sprouted new ideas about the root of the art market. Guarded in his approach, the artist explained that potatoes were frequently used in his practice and he identified them as a “proxy for humans in my ontological exploration of the human experience.” 

The potato, the lambo and the rose

“‘Potato #345’ was pulled from the earth and covered in dirt before essentially being immortalized, so to speak,” Abosch said. “People suggest that it looks like a planet or an asteroid – it certainly recalls a celestial body. But for me, it’s what I need to explore my own ego, and to shatter any notion of hierarchy in which I would be superior to a potato.” 

Potato #345 by Kevin Abosch

A strange tinge of desire arises when searching for its raison d’être and whether or not we find that which we are seeking in “Potato #345.” We have unknowingly entered the root of Abosch’s body of work.  

In 2018 the artist began exploring tropes of metadata and experimentation with blockchain CryptoArt.  He created his first smart contract with ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain with the “IAMA Coin Project,” the same smart contract SuperRare used upon its founding. Abosch explained that the project was born from “a reaction to feeling commodified as an artist.”  He felt that “people were paying more attention to the financial value of my work than the intrinsic, artistic value. I decided I would have some fun and control that narrative a little bit by tokenizing myself in the form of 10 million crypto tokens, which I did not view as a currency.  I viewed those as 10 million works of art, divisible to 18 decimal places and deployed on a smart contract.” Abosch literally shed blood for the blockchain by infusing his blood on the stamps of 100 physical works which corresponded to the 10 million tokens.  

Looking to the blockchain as a canvas, Abosch continued to pioneer conceptual works that challenged the crypto zeitgeist. The next series of “generative proxies” created in 2018 earned the title “Yellow Lambo.” The series was created in response to the overwhelming aspirations of wealth that Abosch observed among collectors and creators of CryptoArt on Twitter. The Lamborghini was identified as a metaphorical vehicle of success and its acquisition confirmed ultimate wealth. Abosch created an ERC-20 on which he issued a single crypto-token “Yellow Lambo,” represented by the symbol “YLAMBO.” The project was not attached to any media but existed so that he could create a yellow neon sign comprised of 42 inline alphanumerics that referenced the “Yellow Lambo” contract address on the Ethereum blockchain. As the artist continued to explore the nuances of the metaverse, he began to consider smart contracts with the same deft handling as “Potato #345.” 

“Yellow Lambo” by Kevin Abosch

On Valentine’s Day of 2018, the third “generative proxy” titled “Forever Rose,” bloomed and set another record, this time as the world’s most valuable crypto-artwork. Based upon Abosch’s photograph of the symbolic flower, the image was transported from the physical realm and manifested in the immaterial. As an ERC-721 token called “Rose” on the Ethereum blockchain, the “Forever Rose” contract was written to be divisible, and ultimately was acquired by 10 collectors who each received 1/10 of the ROSE token. 

“Forever Rose” by Kevin Abosch

While he resists being identified as a photographer, Abosch recognizes the photographic medium, particularly digital photographs, as resting at the intersection of art and technology. The artist revealed that he has not seen whole bodies of his photographic works printed and therefore he feels the physical and immaterial illicit a different kind of experience. When we consider that when a work is printed it reflects light but when a work is viewed on a screen, light shines through it, our relationship to the piece changes. Abosch shines a light on why he feels that photography lends itself well to the crypto-art space.  

“NFTs are the perfect carrier for digitally native work,” he said.” And I know the term is thrown around a lot lately, ‘natively digital,’ but let’s not forget that photographic images captured on digital cameras are natively digital.” 

Enter SuperRare Series

Now three years have passed since Abosch first ideated and executed ambitious projects on the blockchain that challenged our perception of how we value art, the symbology of success, and the visual manifestation of love. In the NFT marketplace, photography as a medium has found its place. It only seems fitting that Abosch would help to usher in a new offering from SuperRare called Series. Artists can now deploy and mint work on their own custom ERC-721 smart contract through SuperRare, so that, like DNA, each token can have its own unique sequence of metadata. “CORPORA,” is a series of photographic works deployed as unique one-of-one NFTs on Abosch’s custom Series contract.The first four artworks were released this week, with more are to come. “CORPORA,” takes its name from the plural of the Latin noun “corpus” meaning “bodies.” While potatoes were an integral ingredient in the artist’s practice from 2009 to 2017, it wasn’t until 2010 that he began to gild the potatoes in his photographs. The body of work unveiled in the new series features variations of gilded potatoes that interact on the spatial and perspectival plane. 

The tradition of gilding can be traced back to Egyptian tomb paintings and reliefs from 3000 BC. Delicate gold leaf transforms a common material to appear as solid, polished gold. Abosch puts a twist on the tradition by treating potatoes, a delicate and ephemeral object, with the same care as one of permanence. Despite the application of the luxurious material, the potatoes will eventually rot. We are introduced to “Allegorical Schism,” “As Above” (2015), “That Girl Who Changed Her Name” (2015), and “Gilt Trope” (2014). Each a unique one-of-one minted on the CORPORA contract, the photographs belong to a larger body of work that will soon be revealed. The gilded yet imperfect surfaces float against the familiar black backdrop first seen in “Potato #345,” yet their luminosity is hypnotic and equally transformative. Nearly colliding in space, the potatoes reflect off each other and also speak to the delicacy of the human condition. A close observation of “That Girl Who Changed Her Name” feels as though we are confronting the visage of a familiar face. The gilded technique accentuates the natural imperfections and scars of the skin’s surface and further reinforces evidence of life. “CORPORA” reflects a transcendent power that proves even the most humble of bodies can shine with the light of a thousand suns.  

Author profile
A. Moret

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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