May 8, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Digital lowriders and Chicano artist NFTs

Established NFT digital artist Alotta Money built the digital version of the Impala for Mister Cartoon, and designer Ryan Colditz, who co-curated META_VS with writer-editor Shelley Leopold, “installed” the piece, so to speak, inside a massive virtual gallery space.

“It’s probably the first lowrider NFT and certainly the first by Cartoon,” Leopold says. “He ‘got’ it right away.”

Anyone with an internet connection can drop by the exhibition space, whip up a visitor avatar and check out the show. Visitors can also buy “wearables” inside the space so their avatars are not “naked.” There’s even a digital velvet rope surrounding the digital vehicle. (Click here to drop into the virtual gallery directly in front of Cartoon’s display.)

Mister Cartoon in Hollywood, promoting the 2017 movie “Lowriders,” which he executive produced.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The pandemic has likely helped in the growing interest in art NFTs. Digital art goes hand in hand with virtual viewing consumption, which became the norm for art lovers during the global tragedy of the coronavirus.

“During the [opening of the] show, there were people scooting all around, people flying, people just going for it,” Colditz says. “And I think in a sense this is the future of art fairs and things that we want to congregate around, that we might not geographically be able to go to. This is the start of all that.”

Creators rely on digital artists to see their concepts materialize. The guy behind Foos Gone Wild teamed up with L.A. digital artist and designer Eddie Perez, better known as Eddie Visual, for the NFT asset. Eddie Visual, in an interview, says he was investigating NFT art for about a year before Foos Gone Wild hit him up to collaborate.

“This Foos Gone Wild toy is kind of like all of my expertise in one package,” he says.

NFT art on blockchain, he says, “is a way to legitimize artwork. It’s a proof of purchase that’s intamperable. Every transaction that’s ever been made is recorded and is viewable to everyone. As soon as I understood that, I understood why it could be valuable to artists.”

Next came the sale, on the platform Foundation.

“Honestly, I expected a couple thousand dollars, maybe five gees, max,” says King Foo.

But in a 24-hour auction that started on April Fools’ Day (get it?), the first Foos Gone Wild NFT asset sold for 20 Ethereum, or around $42,000. Since then, the value of 20 Ethereum has risen and dipped, and risen again, to more than $53,000 at last check. That’s money in King Foo’s pocket.

The buyer, an active NFT art collector known as @3fmusic and based in Dubai, did not respond to a request for comment on the acquisition. The elusive collector also bought the jpeg of a New York Times column about NFTs, wowing observers.

“After that, I’ve seen the power,” King Foo says. “I feel like it’s the future of currency, man, the crypto game.”

His creation, with its hidden face and which he sometimes mimics in real life, is appealing to fans because Little Mr. E, he says, “represents every foo’ in the game — ’cause every foo’ is in a mask, whether they admit it or not.”

For a second NFT, the brain behind Foos Gone Wild is teaming up again with Visual for a true-to-the-streets theme. “The art is Little Mr. E with a cowboy hat, some botas and he’s a paletero man, walking his cart,” the creator says.

The piece is expected to drop this week. Proceeds from the next auction will go to Inclusive Action, an emergency fund to benefit street vendors. “We could use this for some good,” King Foo says. “It’s opening the minds of young Chicanos to take it to the next level.”

Bidding will begin at 1 Ethereum.

Leopold, Cartoon’s co-curator, says naysayers worried about an NFT art bubble should take a longer view of the metaverse’s future.

“It’s definitely a tool for artists that’s not going to go away anytime soon,” she says. “This is the beginning of it all. It’s very early, and the potential hasn’t been reached.”