New Horizons, Pellas Gallery, courtesy of Michael Blanchard.
February 24 through April 23, 2022
Curated by NessGraphics
By VICTOR SLEDGE, March 2022
When David Paredes walked into Pellas Gallery to pitch an idea for Boston’s first-ever NFT exhibition, some might assume he had his best business suit on, ready to sell an idea he had rehearsed for days on end.
“I walked in wearing basketball shorts,” Paredes remembers.
What followed was a casual, unassuming conversation with the owners of the gallery, Alfredo Pellas IV and Isabel Arguello, that would later turn into a successful, nearly sold-out exhibition—a testament to the limitless possibilities that NFTs afford to those both in and outside the traditional art space.
Paredes’s initial, somewhat serendipitous conversation with Pellas and Arguello ultimately led to the idea of an NFT auction. As NFTs have risen in popularity, whether by artistic interest or genuine curiosity, Paredes saw an avenue that had not yet been explored in this way in Boston, and he felt confident that Pellas and Arguello also saw his vision. Luckily, they did, and with Paredes’s idea and Pellas and Arguello’s gallery experience, New Horizons started to take form.
Now, roughly a year later, Paredes watched as crowds of people poured into the doors on opening night of New Horizons, the gallery’s and Boston’s first-ever NFT exhibition.
Paredes is a perfect example of the possibilities that come with the novelty and innovation of NFTs in the art world. Although he is an avid art collector with over 100 NFTs, and he has a creative background in writing, Paredes has no specific background working in art professionally. And yet he’s sparked a whole new flame within Boston’s art scene.
“That’s one of the beautiful things about NFTs and digital art in general,” he says. “Some of those walls, barriers, and gatekeepers don’t exist.”
Where more traditional forms of art may already have a status quo for who gets to spearhead exhibitions like New Horizons, NFTs and their creators are so novel that there aren’t established rules as to say who is “qualified” or “seasoned” enough to bring together these fresh pieces of digital art.
PlanttDaddii, “ɖʀօք ɨȶ”. Courtesy of the artist and Pellas Gallery.
“That’s an incredible thing that can only exist in this novel space right now,” Paredes explains.
Paredes eventually connected with digital artist, Alex Ness (@nessgraphics), who also calls Boston home and whose work Paredes was already familiar with, to curate the exhibition.
“Certain artists,” Paredes explains about Ness, “the first time you see their work, you just know it’s great.”
Paredes explained that he had already been such a fan of Ness’s work, and he knew that he’d have the eye needed to curate this exhibition.
Ness has a strong background in digital art, specifically through working in the music industry, where he’s done concert visuals and other work for artists like Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion. With the onset of the pandemic, however, Ness had time to pivot creatively and professionally and start to pour into work outside of the music industry, and he appreciated that opportunity.
“A very small amount of the stuff I’ve made for clients have been my true ideas,” Ness explains.
Oftentimes in the music industry, which can be extremely detail-oriented, the seemingly most minute change in the artist’s performance or vision can mean completely changing the visuals that accompany that performance on top of the already strenuous process to have someone from the artist’s team “OK” the visuals to begin with. There is such a multitude of degrees between Ness’s ideation of a visual for an artist and what the audience actually sees in the end. This review process often means diluting digital artists’ visions for the sake of the full, cohesive visual performance.
With this perspective from his background in the music industry, as a curator Ness was intentional about including other artists with strong commercial backgrounds who were looking for opportunities to create art for themselves, instead of client-based art. He prioritized the idea that, in this space, artists could make and sell the exact art that they want to make and sell, without it being diluted by external pressures.
Annibale Siconolfi, The Cycle. Courtesy of the artist and Pellas Gallery.
With that in mind, he curated a dynamic collection of NFTs by artists who have done work in television, the video game industry, Windows, and more. The artists come from such diverse commercial backgrounds, and many of them boast work that people see every day, even if the viewers don’t necessarily stop to interpret the work as art. Now, these artists have the chance to display more of their pure artistic vision while also showcasing their innovative eyes that have helped build their successful commercial careers.
In collaboration with Metaversal and presenting the work with Atomic Form, New Horizons brings together 10 international digital artists. Between Paredes’s initial vision and Ness’s masterful curation, New Horizons has lit a fresh path for the art world in both Boston and beyond.
Over 600 people showed up to the opening night of New Horizons, all waiting to see this new frontier in art take on Boston. “How could I have envisioned that we would have a line of people out the door in 20 degree weather?” Paredes wonders.
For Paredes, he was especially excited to see the genuine reactions around the room as the audience took in the art. Another rare aspect of New Horizons is that many of the pieces were sold before the exhibition even opened its doors, so there was no need to price the pieces.
NessGraphics, FL1PP3R_v_01. Courtesy of the artist and Pellas Gallery.
“I had the luxury of making the conscious decision not to put prices on any of the pieces,” Paredes explains.
Taking away the price created a refreshing dynamic throughout the exhibit that allowed the audience to digest and value the art on their own accord, not with the external signifier of a price, again, adding to the novelty of the exhibition.
For Ness, as the curator, and especially as a digital artist coming from the music industry, he was excited to be able to execute his vision for the exhibition uninhibited by the usual hoops it takes to bring a vision into fruition in his normal line of work.
“I’m used to worrying about planning shows that have 200-foot screens,” Ness explains. “So when it came down to planning a room that was just going to show the art for what it is, it was pretty straightforward.”
And while this innovative, inventive exhibition may be the first in Boston, with the turnout its had, nearly sold-out art, and a curator who feels like a show this novel was “straightforward” to handle, it certainly won’t be the last.
New Horizons is currently open until April 23, 2022, at Pellas Gallery, owned by Alfredo Pellas IV and Isabel Arguello. To learn more about the gallery, you can visit their website or their Instagram for more details. WM