Pumpametti and the Monsters of the Pseudonym
Fine art artist Pumpametti's NFTs reveal the Id prowling around in the growing Metaverse
If you have not seen a Pumpametti “Metti” NFT before, let me try to describe it to you.
Whether the NFT creature is shaped like a canine, or a chimera half-man half wolf, or portrait profile abstract sprite of some sort, each Metti figure is reminiscent of a monster, but not a fully delineated one.
These are not the monsters a father on the bedtime story bed carefully crafts using frightening details found in nursery books.
There is no gapping of the monster’s jaws or the drooling maws of Beowulf’s Grendel. There is none of the hellhound emerging from the black and dark.
These are the monsters of pseudonyms. They are brightly coloured negatives burned into the retina after glimpsing something surreal but flash-intensive. They are crafted for display in a social media space that is designed by a need for attention and a constantly shifting barometer by which that attention is doled out.
These are the Freudian Id creatures that enable the deepest parts of a person to be reflected in a hyperreal but abstract metaverse of shifting, colliding, melding identities.
The monsters are friendly because the identities that want to purchase them also want to be approachable. While they may stalk you, and hover about in some kind of mania-inducing gloom, they seem to rest there, a perpetual indicator of one’s unsettledness.
They look to be creatures that were just woken up from a reverie. They seem drawn by the pastel crayola vibrancy of Play-Doh, as if child’s clay was given a well-crafted nib and a master artisan then drew it on a digital slate of impossibly vibrant hues.
The artist inspirations are the art brut masters and contemporary genre-benders: Jean Dubuffet; Julian Schnabel; Andy Warhol; Giacometti.
And lately, the Yuga Group, the imprimatur of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, and the basis for a rumored substantial portion of a soon to be released series of physical In Real Life (iRL) paintings.
What has the artist made? Let’s look
The Pumpametti Taxonomy
Pumpa, as his social fans call them, has come up with a series of digital art works that can be categorised in the following taxonomy:
Pumpemetti – sprite / monster portrait profiles of seated subjects, frazzled chalkish lines and embellished character traits arrayed as “rarity” concepts that give each Metti a score or a uniqueness
Pettametti – these appear to be the canine friends of the Pumpamettis
Standametti – these seem to be a fuller length-wise full body profile of something like a Pumpametti, but maybe their more junior cousins from a different part of the dream swamp
Metti Landscape – a glimpse into the world and a shout out to how each of these digital NFT pieces exists in a profile-heavy social media world that individuals adorn with cave painting abstract expressionism
During the last few months, Pumpa has gone in a different direction.
Metti Team Six – a series of trading card style references to pop culture, movies, sports and heroes built on the Fantom network, bought with Metti Inu, a fork of the OHM currency.
Metti Ape – a 5000 piece series of generative art that recognizes the Bored Ape Yacht Club ape and Yuga Labs as being a monumental change in the collective swarm of digital fan fiction.
That is six series and distributions in less than 18 months. There are also more unique works, and lately some physical 24” x 24” canvases have have gone out to a few bidders and raffle winners.
The work ethic is astounding.
The criticism is equally so.
I don’t know what gender Pumpametti is. I don't even know if he or she is one or many. I don’t know what Pumpametti is really up to these days – whether the artist is preparing for a show at Pace or getting ready to travel to Venice to stage a pop-up show at Art Basel.
I just don’t know. The artist seems to work in fits and starts. A gush of a collection is pushed out after long periods of silence, and each new series is as magical as the first.
During bouts of silence, when the artist is working on studio pieces – lately a group of physical IRL canvases of his NFT work – many discord members grouse about his / her lack of appearances. Numbers of their collectors fret and worry about the “floor price” of the digital objects that fans have bought.
But Pumpametti works at their own pace. They seem clearly disinterested in whether or not the work’s value is keeping up with the hype of other volume sellers.
“I think of my art converging in a space between art brut and neo-expressionism, with a focus to document the crypto and contemporary societal state of mind, the chaos, frenzy, and euphoria”.
The latest two series — but especially the Metti Apes — have been used as justifications for some art world sniping about Pumpametti’s self-proclaimed designation as an art brut outsider artist.
He can’t be a true art brut artist, say some, because he went to art school and got an MFA. He also knows how to draw attention to himself, say others.
Pumpametti is not truly an outsider approaching the work with naïveté because they have a huge social media following and rely on memes as a “marketing” tool to spread interest in their art (Pumpa has nearly 15,000 followers on Twitter).
An “outsider” artist wouldn’t do this, some critics argue. An outsider is only an outsider when nobody knows about that artist, until a critic discovers them.
This, of course, reveals a glaring paradox. Isn’t the shunning of an artist and refusing to give them the status they seek at the same time proof that they are an outsider?
The art critics don’t seem to take that into consideration. They also don’t seem to recognize that their view of what art is and what it isn’t is boxed into an almost medieval classification of roles and designations. Art should only be what their exposure to art history recognizes it to be. Say this to them, though, and things get testy.
The digital “metaverse” that we are living in now, by virtue of its saturation of digital information, means that visual and aesthetic knowledge is pervasive. So is the right to learn and the right to experiment. Art wants to be free.
NFT is vanguard, in this case.
It’s the digital version of Basquiat walking around Manhattan at three am and spraying doodles on soon-to-be-plastered-over billboards in SoHo. It’s the same thing as Picasso or Debussey sketching something on a canvas that later becomes a palimpsest when the canvas has to be re-stretched and another painting added to the oeuvre. .
Instead of the friction of history and time, art critics use the ease of information flow to erect barriers to aesthetic exploration and string barbed wire of refusal across the boundaries art brut artists wish to cross over into in their naivete.
Again, delicious irony.
For that’s the subject matter of Pumpametti. The glaring and gouache avatar sensibility that puts everything on the surface but doesn’t define it perfectly. The half-truth monster. The greed troll. The apocalyptic movie star and the chimera philosopher who speaks of the underhuman rather than the overman.
Going Beyond Aesthetics
Seeing that digital art on the blockchain requires climbing a steep learning curve, the artist also has created their own crypto token, and then a series of training tutorials for any artists to learn how to launch their own smart contracts.
Launching one’s own smart contracts circumvents the bewildering loneliness of trying to find a show space. It puts the art right out there, and is a single click and digital signature with private keys away from a collector or curator to acquire the object.
The resulting ambitions are Metti Friends, which is a tutorial system that enables artists to learn how to work with blockchain smart contracts.
What Is Next?
Pumpametti comes in and out of the social media scene, dropping contests for fans and delineating their theories on art, and artist acceptance. The artist seems committed to creating as much IRL art as possible, and there are rumors that a possible show is coming up somewhere.
There have been Twitter postings of real art leaned up against studio walls and hints that gallery shots are being taken and that new web site designs are in the works.
For now, we will have to wait and see.