Posted on May 14, 2024Read on


Written by Katie Chiou

Jared Madere is an artist and curator based in New York, as well as the Co-founder of Galerie Yeche Lange. The Yeche Lange team also includes Milo Conroy, Wretched Worm, Miles Peyton, Supermetal Bosch, Anastasios Karnazes, and Hikkimourning. Yeche Lange has collaborated with crypto-native communities including little swag world, Tojiba CPU Corp, and more. Yeche Lange is opening a physical gallery in New York on May 17, 2024.

Prior to founding Galerie Yeche Lange, Madere co-ran other galleries in Los Angeles and New York. His own works have been displayed at institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, Le Magasin, La Panacée, The Watermill Center, and others.

Over a video call, Madere and I talked about the relationship between digital art and physical space, bridging traditional art and degen culture, the next generation of art collectors, and more.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Katie Chiou: For those unfamiliar with your work, can you share more about your background as an artist and curator? And specifically about your foray into digital art?

Jared Madere: I've always made digital work, but my baptism into the traditional art world was mostly large-scale, collaborative installations. The scale of this work requires institutional budgets and bureaucracies, so the process can be less than magical. You plan everything out, follow some sort of script, and the thing materializes exactly how it is in your mind. At a certain point, I became really bored with this direct 1/1 relationship, it lacked the sort of material improvisation and self reflective reaction associated with painting.

Madere's installations from the David Lewis Gallery and Whitney Museum of American Art

I became interested in this idea of working with other people to introduce an element of something that can't be anticipated into the process. I would come up with an initial script or prompt that was intentionally worded in a way to create ambiguity in its possible interpretation. So there would be material instructions like “Create xyz image out of bisected squid and sand” or “Create xyz image out of shredded beaded curtains and raspberries.” I was working a lot with tattoo artists and graffiti artists who were used to taking descriptions and very quickly interpreting them in a utilitarian way versus someone who comes from a conceptual art background that tries to be clever with their translation. I got interested in the way that something physically more reductive, i.e., the written word or a still image, could do that in a more portable way. The thought of compressing an idea into something that would fit into someone else's head and then could be unpacked according to their own idiosyncrasies. This happens commonly in literature, where there's this kind of transference between the author and the reader, where the vision gets compressed and committed to a textual format and then gets re-inflated in the mind of the reader. I became very hypnotized by how elegant that way of interacting with an audience was.

Also I think, with showing other people's art, there was always this interest in the democratization of ideas. I feel like that word often gets used to mean something specific related to class and accessibility. I don't necessarily mean it in that way. I guess to a certain extent I do, but I think about things like what Kanye and Miami Basel did for exporting ideas that were traditionally relegated to a less accessible field. But there’s also a perverse thing that happens when you round off an idea's edges and prepare it for mass export. I think about it in terms of the way fashion discourse transformed around 2011-2012, where labels like Margiela and Comme des Garçons participated. They weren't just luxury brands, but had commentary—like Comme des Garçons on deconstruction at a material level, or Margiela on deconstruction of the meaning of normative clothes with a wink. Around the birth of Instagram, these meanings flattened, becoming luxury goods like any other designer label. Despite this flattening the original seed is somehow still transmitted the same way that if you understand Skims you understand Judd at least on a subconscious level.

I think this idea that in that reduction, somehow the ghost of the idea remains in there if you can read between the lines or listen carefully enough. That was always an interest of mine—how to get these ideas, typically relegated to contemporary art, into the heads of more people.

KC: What about your interest in crypto?

JM: I had never been interested in crypto before NFTs. I didn't pay close attention to crypto beyond knowing it existed. But when NFTs appeared, it was immediately clear how they could be a very powerful vehicle for distributing art. I had always been envious of how music could penetrate people’s lives, while art felt less agile—you don't really bring a painting or sculpture on a road trip. When NFTs became a possibility, you had audiences curious about art that hadn’t explored it before. One example of this is Roman Signer, a Swiss sculptor with works like a kinetic sculpture of rain boots launching water or a white dress shirt mounted on an automatic zipline through a forest. By early 2021, I was in group chats where Apes were being discussed, and after 8 months of self-educating, the same group chats were talking about Roman Signer—this relatively obscure sculptor wasn't even on the radar of many trad art friends who live and breathe art.

NFTs provided a way for art to exist in people's lives differently, trafficking these ideas to new audiences. People who had been flipping coins were now interested in digging deeper into ideas previously relegated to other spheres. I started thinking about building Yeche Lange as a vehicle to bring my art friends into this new context with the idea of bridging them to the possibilities there.

KC: Earlier in our conversation, you referred a lot to the flattening of ideas especially due to speed of idea dissemination. In many ways, crypto culture is a manifestation of this type of speed.

JM: Yes.

KC: I’m curious if, by participating in crypto, you’re hoping to make some sort of commentary on that observation? Or if it’s generally intentional in any way?

JM: I never really think of it in terms of commentary. I guess what I'm hoping to do is bring ideas that have traditionally been relegated to less accessible corners of the contemporary art world to a new group of people so that they can unpack them from a different vantage point.

I think this is especially true with the new physical space we're doing with Yeche Lange in New York. It's a way of introducing traditional audiences to something that they haven't really had a way of viewing. With my traditional art friends, NFTs were just some sort of obscure esoteric interest that you really had to pour yourself into in order to understand. A lot of them didn't have the patience or didn't know where to begin. At the time, around 2021, NFTs also all looked the same—some pixelated animal with a rhyming name with different baseball hats and different 3D glasses on it. To me, this seemed so bizarrely reductive, it's like it's closer to stamp collecting if stamps had more limited imagery.

In the gallery, we're going to have a massive DriFella painting. To me, DriFellas represent some of the most radical image-making I've seen in the last 15 to 20 years. They stand out compared to what's been happening in the art world in recent decades, where the most advanced stances orbited around this sort of cynical celebration of the limpness of painting as an uninventive space, maybe seen most directly with artists like Michael Krebber or Merlin Carpenter.

DriFellas 2 #3373, #8608, and #2189 by Evil Biscuit

DriFellas pick up from a very different place. The artists behind it aren't even engaging in those conversations, or if they are, it's through a completely different lens. The way they approach image-making, and the entire process, contrasts sharply. For instance, telling an artist to create a 3K or 10K piece collection is unfathomable to them. They may say, “I don't know if I'll ever make 3,000 works in my life. That seems psychotic.” DriFella’s approach involves creating a few thousand image components that are pseudo-randomly collaged together according to predefined weights. The resulting images feel like violent onslaughts of stickers piled on top of each other, creating complex foreground-background relationships. These are some of the most exciting images made in decades.

This crypto world has been opaque to the traditional art world—unless you're a degen or on crypto Twitter, you don't know where to look. You and I know how to browse collections on Tensor or OpenSea, but even then, you might miss something. Compared to the traditional art world, where you can visit a gallery website or do a Google search, this world is opaque to non-participants. Making the fruits of these cultures visible to audiences beyond collectors has been a huge driver for us to bring Yeche Lange into the form of a physical gallery as a bridge. We’re also launching this Yeche Lange archive platform, cataloging every collection these artists have done, including their IRL work to make all of this less opaque regardless.

KC: People have complained for years about how to display NFTs in physical spaces. How do you think about the relationship between digital art and physical space?

JM: I also think that’s a funny thing about the NFT space. Our gallery will also eventually have screens, as there’s motion work we want to show, but in our first show, everything is painting, sculpture, and prints. We're probably going to be the first NFT gallery to open a show without a single screen. You know how it goes—90% of NFT exhibitions are just flat screens with LED rimmed backs casting arbitrary colors onto the walls. I personally dislike being in dark rooms; I love sunlight, natural light, windows. It's important to me that when we present digital media, we don't confine it to caves. There's an added dimension when you put these things in a room with a window, where a breeze can come in, and you see leaves vibrating outside.

I've always been less interested in structuralism, meaning the belief that digital media should only be displayed digitally. This notion echoes through contemporary art and modernism in slogans like "the medium is the message," and similar ideas advocating that paintings should remain flat because that explores their full potential. In this modernist belief system introducing three-dimensional elements to a traditionally flat medium is a perversion of its essence. I’m more interested in them as substrates that carry communications. For me, these are historical conversations that demonstrated a point but should ultimately be moved beyond. Ultimately, the printing press wasn't just about the mechanics of printing but about distributing the Bible. I think of digital displays not just as screens but as another medium through which ideas are transported—like the literary form.

Many of the “sophisticated” NFTs in recent years have structurally engaged with blockchain, but I see those as inevitable conversations. Like in cinema, I'm not particularly fascinated by artworks like Tony Conrad’s sculptures where celluloid is put in pickle jars and this triple underlining this point that these too count as films. I'm more interested in Godzilla vs. Kong which engages with the core components of cinema from a less form and structural underpinning-obsessed place.

KC: Yeche Lange launched an NFT collection in 2022 “Galerie Yeche Lange Pie Keys” meant to act as a premium membership key of sorts. Any reflections or takeaways from that experience?

JM: Well, that was an interesting collection because it was released for free, serving as a way to introduce people to the gallery. I never expected it to become particularly popular. I imagined some would know about it, but many might remain unminted, with my friends being the primary audience. However, it minted out almost instantly, generating insane volume in a couple hours that basically funded the gallery treasury for two years.

Pie Keys Jade Plate 74 and Ketchup Plate 19 by Madere

There were a lot of interesting takeaways. Initially, I wasn't interested in making a 10K collection, I romanticized the idea of a single painting that takes 10 years, and we wanted to create a vehicle that allowed artists to work that way. I think a lot of us were thinking about this at the time. We wanted to have a vehicle that could allow artists to work within this medium that also had a way of bringing traditional artists onboard. For them, it might be unfathomable to create a 10K collection, but it was very easily conceivable to create a very labored single image or 3D object or whatever art object it is. However, between the Pie Keys and the gallery launch was the crash, and the meta changed drastically. Artists who had been market darlings in 2021, whose collections always minted instantly, suddenly saw 10 1-of-1 collections sitting for weeks. Our approach was to bridge worlds, aiming for price points comparable to what artists would get from traditional galleries. But post-crash, these prices seemed steep to even many degen collectors, and they were less interested in flipping single works. Our initial idea of bridging these worlds was shaken and has since remade its face many times.

KC: Launching an NFT collection at that time would’ve looked very different than launching one the year before or the year after, I think.

JM: A huge change we’ve seen as we’ve watched art scenes, particularly the scene that comes out of little swag world, is that there used to be a general degenship where people would buy Pepes and also generative art and also Murakami NFTs and also Petra Cortright because “someone in the trad art told me she’s in museums, so I should get that.”

little swag world #2887, Murakami.Flower #6678, and Petra Cortright's PC_Flower_Vase 001

There’s become much more focused collectorship recently, people who are really diehard. When I look at the traditional art world, I see a huge gulf generationally. You see the values of many traditional art collectors rooted in wanting to see their names on the steps of the opera house or have museum wings with their names above the entrance, but their kids aren’t really stepping up to fill those shoes in the same way. The majority of collectors that are interacting with projects like DriFella are participating at a very different price point but they are infinitely more engaged—eating, breathing, sleeping art from these scenes and spending huge swaths of their life in group chats focused on them.

I think collecting art is going to look different. Right now, a huge number of traditional collectors define the market by buying $200K paintings, but there are fewer degens willing to spend $200K on a 1-of-1. Comparatively, there's another economy where 500 people buy 100 things each for $10 to $100 a pop.

When I look at these two worlds, I see one slowly declining and in dire need of reinvention, and another burgeoning with extremely genuine engagement and consistent dedication that will grow as the scene matures. Many of these hyper-engaged younger collectors are under 30, which is a rarity in the traditional art world. These people are going to own homes and want art on their walls, but not the same decorative paintings you see in Chelsea, etc.

KC: You’ve mentioned in past interviews your belief that we shouldn’t necessarily laud the complexity of technology. How do you think people should engage with technology in the context of art?

JM: For myself, personally, when I first got out of school, it was very in vogue to transpose a structural conversation onto painting. There was a cliché from the late 80s into the 90s of "painting is dead," and a whole generation of painters reacted to the 90s with exhibitions like Sensation, which Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and others emerged from. These shows were sensationalistic, featuring things like a rotting cow carcass in a glass box being gnawed on by flies or a tent covered with the names of hundreds of people the artist slept with. You had this group of painters that were interested in structural conversations that looked up to conceptual artists like Tony Conrad. They aimed to show that painting didn't have to be a "dumb thing," it was like “I'm making paintings, but I'm doing it in this very self reflexive way.” You had these projects that had very indexical relationships to the labor that went into them. 20-foot canvases were being painted 24/7 by studio assistants in specific colors demarcating the length of their shifts and other metrics of their labor being visually charted out. All this felt like a very heavy justification, kind of like math class, where it was this kind of “show your work” approach.

It’s similar to why I'm more interested in DriFella than in code-based projects generated entirely onchain, which embody hardcore blockchain structuralism. DriFella engages with NFT cultural history in a very direct way, akin to how Godzilla reboots engage with cinema, not in a Derek Jarman’s Blue-like manner, where you stare at a blue screen for two hours to investigate materiality or mechanics.

KC: What do you hope Yeche Lange looks like 1, 2, 5 years from now?

JM: I guess I'd like to see these conversations just engaging with a wider audience, meaning, I think it's two things I'd like to see.

One is creating a bridge to make these conversations legible to a broader audience. We're working on a book, similar to the archive, cataloging these projects. These efforts speak to the diehard audience, degens or whatever you want to call them, but also serve to bridge to others not participating as directly.

I saw this at a party we did with Club Chess and Zora. We had Bosch's game set up due to its similarity to chess. A woman who had recently moved from Texas introduced herself saying she liked my work naming projects I had only really ever shown on Twitter. I asked if she collected NFTs, and she said, "No, I don't even have a wallet, but I love the art." She mentioned Wretched Worm and Bosch as favorites. This was exciting to hear because it showed that these projects have legs to reach outside the NFT sphere.

On the other side of this, many projects within the NFT sphere are still in their infancy. Most projects remain vaguely PFPs, representing something with eyes and a mouth, or engage in a structural way that can seem thin and lacks the ability to speak to a wider audience. They don't evoke the same emotional response as traditional art. I had a teacher in school who said their criteria for art was that their perception of the street was changed when they left the theater. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that onchain.


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