12 Metti Apes

3/22/2022

In the art world today, there is a widening divide between the physical and digital realms of artistic production. With collectors and institutions embracing new virtual forms of art and curatorial practices, what is the role of physical space as we move forward? While countless perspectives arise and debate there are others who not only embrace the change, but create exhibitionary marvels that intersect the past, present, and future of the art world.

Pumpametti is amongst those bridging the widening gap that has pitted members of the art world against one another. In his exhibition of 12 Monkeys, we witness the realization of his novel curatorial perspective as he creates an experience at the crossroads of conventional, white-wall exhibitions intertwined with the burgeoning virtual medium of NFTs with a cutting critique of contemporary culture. 

Just like the dichotomy his exhibition presents, Pumpametti's practice in itself embraces contradiction. An artist whose physical works are intensely gestural, a visceral reimagination of the Art Brut movement, he has gained fame through the transmutation of his tangible works into NFTs - an artistic practice that exists in the liminal space between the gallery walls and cyber codes. 

Situated amongst the original NFT creators, dating back to 2018, his talents have become renowned in the latest wave of attention these creations have received over the past year. However, each collection of NFTs is based on the reality and execution of physical artistic creation. What he presents digitally are the results of a stylistic evolution that is based on a gestural painterly nature. Rejecting institutionalized art, he looks to the greats like Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, and Giacometti to create a one of a kind stylistic fusion that takes the rebellious attitude of those within the Art Brut movements, the attack on consumer mentality presented by the Pop Artists, and the abstraction of form we saw in early modern artists all now presented with a contemporary twist. An art historical lineage has been undermined confronting us and asking us to reconsider the issues of the present day.Pumpametti takes his collections a step further, synthesizing the Art Brut stylings with elements of Pop Art. With series such as Metti Ape, paying homage to the Bored Ape Yacht Club, and Metti Team Six, some inspired by the famed record sale of the Mickey Mantle baseball card, his works fall in the same vein of Andy Warhol, Pumpametti making his own proclamations against the hyper-consumerist nature of our society. The dark and twisted corner of art, as Pumpametti refers to his practice, is simultaneously a pure and unadulterated expression of self while also a scathing critique of the world today. 

It is with this mentality that he created the Metti Ape series, an NFT collection that inspired the current 12 Monkeys exhibition. As with all NFT productions by Pumpametti, they are based on the artworks he has created himself. He translates his art into a virtual form. For Metti Ape he has appropriated traditional notions of portraiture as a subversion of popular culture. His sitters here, however, are apes dressed in the latest fashions and hairstyles with vacant backgrounds constructed of the most vivid and bold colors. Heart-shaped sunglasses, royal crows slightly askew, 3-D glasses, and baseball caps embroidered with self-referential text, adorn each ape imbuing them with a sense of personality and uniqueness. Through this series of art, Pumpametti creates explore the intersections and juxtapositions between contemporary cultural phenomenon and notions of fine art. Pumpametti’s decision to focus on these apes directly correlates to a fascination and growing market associated with the so-called Ape Culture. We see their popularity skyrocketing with other NFT creators such as Yuga Lab’s Bored Ape Yacht Club which gained favor with celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton. These images have become so commonplace and spreading in popularity they can be found seeping into other markets, such as fashion. Pumpametti’s Metti Apes, while harboring no association with these other creators, exposes the erratic and fickle nature of our current commodity culture and market through the manipulation of these images and elevating them into objects of fine art over digital consumption. 

Beyond the thematic foundation of the series, Pumpametti enhances his societal critique of popular culture further through his distinctive style. The artistic choice of mediums becomes a greater reflection of the influence, impact, and role commodification has in our daily lives. The serial nature of the work, alternating colors and slight variations to the subjects, with an intense gestural nature throughout Metti Ape as a collection is indicative of Pumpametti’s Art Brut meets Pop Culture creative methodology. 

We can see a thread from Metti Ape stemming back to other greats of modern and contemporary art who portrayed or reimagined cultural icons. Damien Hirst has recreated celebrities and Disney characters with a splash of kaleidoscopic tie-dye colors, triggering Pumpametti’s experimentations with surreal palettes. Nostalgic classic cartoons take on eerily haunting shapes in the work of Gary Simmons as well as the gestural minimalist abstractions of Joyce Pensato we see influencing an expressive hand that Pumpametti adapts into his reinterpretations. 

However, among the biggest inspirations, Pumpametti attributes to his creation of this collection are the works of Andy Warhol’s Superman (Myth) series from the 1980s. The series of paintings and silkscreens presents the iconic comic book Superman mid-flight with a phantom sketched image overlaid. Each image presents a varying range of colors against solid backgrounds, just as we see in Pumpametti’s Metti Ape. Pumpametti has reconceived the social mirror Warhol places before us in a modern cultural context. The contemporary values he tackles reveal that the superficial nature of our consumer-based world has not changed in the decades since Warhol’s initial proclamation. If anything our society’s culture is exponentially devoid of any deeper substantial value. 

The presentation of 12 Monkeys presents a rare opportunity to see the method behind the madness. While the NFT collection Metti Ape can be viewed and purchased in digital form, we are offered a glimpse into the creative process as we look upon the physical works that are behind the virtual commodity. 

In this presentation, eight of the twelve monkeys are presented in the physical exhibition, formatted in two concurrent rows, hearkening back to the displays of Warhol silkscreens where the meticulous artistic choices ascribed to each replication of the subject revealed themselves through their close quarters. While the full dozen are not shown in unison, the reduced number selected to accommodate the limitations of physical space, the series of oil paintings reveals new dimensions of the Metti Ape NFT collection. 

The parallels are undeniable. When confronted with the title, 12 Monkeys, we cannot help but draw associations to the iconic 1995 science fiction thriller of the same title. The film portrays a tale of time travel in order to prevent a deadly plague from decimating Earth’s human population. These physical paintings become manifestations of the eerily similar seemingly dystopian state of society we now inhabit in the wake of the deadly waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pumpametti’s intentional play on yet another facet of popular culture not only aligns with his distinctive cross-movement stylings but illuminates a much more significant role of the artist, the artist as a documentarian. In his synthesis of allusions to art historical movements, references to contemporary popular culture and fashion, and even in his choice of medium that embraces materiality as well the evolutions of the world of art and technology, 12 Monkeys become portraits of the surreal nature of our commodified, isolated, and divided world. While our lives are perpetually upended by what seems to be unending turmoil, we are still enthralled by the latest trends, the most vivacious of colors, and the output of the digital world. 

The exhibition reveals Pumpametti’s love of spontaneity and finality that can only be found in presenting a physical work. Unlike the process of digital creation, where you can retract our mistakes, a physical work of art is subject to the definiteness of the artist’s hand, each iteration only existing as a memory of the past. However, when gazing upon these works together, from this novel standpoint, we are asked to question how the certainty of an artist in the act of creation inadvertently mirrors the irrevocability of freeing a work into the realm of the internet, never to be scrubbed, erased, or entirely forgotten.

Metti Apes and 12 Monkeys reflect Pumpametti’s simultaneous commitment to a genuine form of artistic production that values the aesthetics of authenticity but remains continuously culturally relevant to the times we live in. The complex and dynamic progression of this series continues. Pumpametti shows no signs of slowing, continuously hard at work in his studio. Our imaginations are left to wander as we eagerly await the next evolution, next critique, and next set of Metti Ape.