What is crypto art? Everyone has their own definition. Which is funny, because there are some who say that crypto art is whatever the f*ck you want it to be. Not unlike street art–and here I’m including everyone from the teenagers in the Bronx in the 1970s to the Mexican muralists of the early 20th century to the degens who leave their names in bar bathrooms with Sharpie–it is an alternative to the way things “should” be done. With gatekeepers, refinery, and fancy napkins, I mean.
If you spend as much time on crypto twitter as I do (you’re reading this, so I assume you do), then you have no doubt encountered beautiful, historical masterpieces tagged up and born anew by the hand of Mr Richi. His iconic street art style combines vibrant colors, cheeky social commentary, and never ending layers of stories embedded in each corner of his art. With one hand, he reaches back into the past to help us reimagine the creations of the great masters. With his other hand, he pushes us forward into the future, each step immortalized on the Ethereum blockchain.
But taking a moment to enjoy the now, Mr Richi spent some time talking to 79Au about his work, his vision, and his optimism for the crypto art space, and beyond.
Virginia Valenzuela: Your work has a lot of imagery packed within it. Any artwork feels more like a collage of many individual artworks sewn together into a tapestry that one can stare at forever and still find little surprises. Can you tell me a bit about your signature style and how it came to be?
Mr Richi: It’s a bit difficult for me to define my style precisely because of the various influences. It is essentially a fusion of things I love and things that have made a strong impact on me and my art – a splash of street art, a dash of punk, pop art aesthetic, all wrapped up in the spirit of crypto art. Simple stories do not exist, you can find as many layers as you like in a story if you are willing to dig deep enough and interpret them to your liking, and that is what I am trying to show through each artwork and the use of numerous elements.
Fun fact is that some people actually do think that I use collage as a technique and are honestly surprised when I explain to them that it’s not my creative process.
Virginia Valenzuela: I can tell from your art that you love color. What is your relationship with color and what draws you to use the vivid colors that illuminate so many of your works?
Mr Richi: Thank you for noticing that, love. I did a lot of graphic design prior to my blockchain era and learned to appreciate the importance of colors. Picking up a right color combination has the power to transform creation in most extraordinary ways. Bold, vivid colors somehow work best with the messages I want to tell and in my vision crypto art should be exactly that, a strong, raw, vivid art message that you can’t ignore. The choice also probably has to do something with personality as well, as I am not exactly what you would call the calmest person in the room.
"Today people don’t want to go to the streets so we are bringing art to the screens to which all of us are attached so digital art can no longer be ignored."
Virginia Valenzuela: You have described yourself as an artist who brings street art to the blockchain. There are many obvious ways in which your art hearkens to street art, including the pop culture references, the combination of imagery and text in classic graffiti fonts, and the layers of pen marks and stickers that one might see on an advertisement. What are some of the not so obvious relationships between street art and digital art in the NFT world that you aim to explore through your art?
Mr Richi: Really glad you asked that. Street art and digital art on blockchain have a much stronger connection than people think. They both, in their nature, disrupt the traditional art paradigms and old ways. Being open and essentially limitless in ways you can share your art with the world, they are a challenge to traditional exclusivity. They represent empowerment of the artists and redefine how we perceive art today. I like to play with that rebellious aspect that both have and put it to the spotlight through my artworks.
People didn’t want to go to museums so artists brought art to streets where it couldn’t be avoided or ignored. Today people don’t want to go to the streets so we are bringing art to the screens to which all of us are attached so digital art can no longer be ignored.
Virginia Valenzuela: Much of your art draws on famous paintings from centuries past, like the “Mona Lisa” or “Venus on the Half-Shell.” What about historical paintings interests you, and what is your main aim in recreating them in your iconic street art style?
Mr Richi: I have always been fascinated by the mastery and depth in those pieces as they are as close to the craft perfection as it gets and represent imagery and symbols that you have seen so many times that they are imprinted somewhere deep in your brain. Art and this world constantly evolve so it’s like a playful challenge for me to take something that is created with such excellence and transform it into a rebellious artwork, imagery of today, a message that will entertain you and make you think about reconsidering traditional concepts about art and life.
Virginia Valenzuela: Something I love about your work is your ability to create unique standalone pieces as well as series. I’m thinking of “The Gamblers” series on SuperRare or the “All-Star Supper” on Async. Can you tell me about how you come up with ideas for projects and what gets you excited to create?
Mr Richi: I spend a lot of my time with our beautiful and weird crypto art community so the inspiration comes from the struggles, wins and events we experience on this crazy journey. “Money Laundering” and “The Gamblers” were references to the well-known stereotypes about NFTs – that they are nothing but money laundering and gambling. “All-Star Supper” was a hat tip to important figures in the space.
The collection that I will be dropping this October, “Venus de Crypto: Defender of the Metaverse” is a comic book-style collection of 120 different art stories inspired by the crypto art world and NFTs and is something I am really excited for because it will also include a way for the collectors to take the stories further through inscriptions. I jokingly like to say that I chose 120 as the number of artworks because that is how many people are left here and each of them deserves to have a personal story turned into art.
Virginia Valenzuela: Finally, I’d love to hear about your piece that you are exhibiting with us in “The Golden Age” at Superchief. We gave you permission to try something totally different from what you usually create, to ignore the demands of collectors and to listen to your heart. What did you end up doing and what choices are you most proud of in creating this piece?
Mr Richi: I was genuinely excited when we started talking about it, thank you for gathering this amazing lineup of artists. Every artist loves and needs freedom in creation, we thrive on that. I wanted to go with something iconic and make it extra raw and trashy, give it a true voice of crypto art as I see it.
The piece is called “Just Hodl It” and it’s a sort of an electric battle cry in the fight for an open metaverse and crypto art’s place in it, a big, sincere and vivid message to keep us going where we are headed to.
We are here, we are the revolution and nothing can stop this.