Artists

Collections

Collaborations

In Conversation with Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz) cover photo

INTERVIEW

In Conversation with Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz)

by Jeff Davis

Jeff Davis: Hi Michael! It’s good to chat with you again. How did you first get into making art?
Michael Kozlowski: Like most artists I imagine, I have been creative my whole life and have been making art since childhood. My mom is a graphic designer and my dad is a fine art printer, so I think I had a bit more encouragement to pursue visual arts than the normal kid and I am very lucky for that. I grew up in Montana, so this exposure to both the personal and professional sides of creativity was especially unique to the time and place of my small hometown.
JD: When did you start pursuing generative art?
MK: I started making generative artwork six years ago while I was going to college. I knew right away that it was something I would try to do in whatever capacity I could for the rest of my life. Up until that point I never really had a super clear idea about what I wanted to do. I moved to California in 2010 after high school and spent a few uninspired years working construction and other odd jobs until I decided to enroll in community college. From there I was able to get into the film school at USC, which is where I spontaneously took an elective in creative coding. After a few weeks in that class, I totally fell in love with the subject. I remember asking my professor what kind of careers could be had with creative coding and she responded, “teaching this class.” She was joking of course, but there was some truth to her response that doesn’t exist as much today.
But after that class I never really stopped. Generative art became a passion and something I did almost every day. I started learning more in my free time, remixing Processing sketches, spending hours and hours on YouTube watching Daniel Shiffman tutorials, and attending all the lectures and meetups that I could. I was lucky that I was in Los Angeles and was within driving distance from hearing people like Lauren Mccarthy and Refik Anadol speak about their art. During my remaining time at school, I focused on computer science fundamentals and enrolled in a lot of emerging media classes and eventually a CS minor. I became very interested in augmented reality and spent every minute in and out of school making poorly written but well-intentioned AR apps and experiences. After I graduated, I worked as a software developer and designer at a variety of mixed reality-focused technology companies for several years, all the while biding my time, waiting for some miracle to occur that would allow me to make generative art professionally.
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Garden of Forking Paths, 2021. Live view..jpeg
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Garden of Forking Paths, 2021. Live view.
JD: And maybe that miracle is NFTs? How did you first discover NFTs and crypto art?
MK: A friend of mine started following and collecting NFTs in 2019. He was the first person to talk to me about them and suggested repeatedly that I look into minting my own. At that point I was working on the Hololens team at Microsoft and creating generative artwork and hardware experiments strictly for fun, posting on my social media, and making friends with fellow digital artists on the internet. I didn’t have the intuition he had, as I didn’t end up minting anything until early 2021. The months before my genesis piece on Foundation, a lot of the artists I followed online started making NFTs, talking to me about them, and eventually I decided I’d try it out as well. It was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and has enabled me to realize the type of career I wanted when I was in that first creative coding class. Since then, I quit my 9–5 and have been making artwork full time.
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Perpetuation- Magnolia, 2021. (detail). Live view. .jpeg
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Perpetuation: Magnolia, 2021. (detail). Live view.
JD: How do you think your creative practice has changed over time?
MK: I believe the biggest shift has come in how seriously I take my process and the artwork I produce. Before I became a full-time artist, my process was fairly casual. I would have an idea, write it down, and eventually make it or learn how to make it if I could. I saw the things I created as prototypes, experiments, and exercises in self-education, rather than discrete pieces of art. I even remember feeling a bit strange calling myself an artist up until I quit my 9–5. Taking that leap, leaving a job I worked really hard to get, was formative in its own right. Going through this experience has made me take my work much more seriously. I am no longer casual about the things I make and am desperately trying to push boundaries like the artists that I learned from. I have become a bit obsessive I think and have heard from multiple sources that my time-estimation skills have declined dramatically. As I am sure other artists can relate to, there is a level of sacrifice that occurs when working professionally, one that never existed while working defined hours at another job. This affects those close to me most: my girlfriend, family, and friends.
Chimera is a perfect example of this shift. Every detail in Chimera has been poured over. I’ve obsessed over it and have spent more time on it than any other artwork I’ve ever made. Part of the reason I named my project Chimera is the mythical definition of the word, a fantastic monster of sorts. In that way, Chimera lives up to that part of its definition, something two-headed, a process I have absolutely loved but sometimes hate.
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Olympics, 2021. Live view..webp
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Olympics, 2021. Live view.
JD: Well that’s a great segue. What was the initial inspiration for Chimera?
MK: Chimera is a combination of many of my interests and influences. Another reason the project was named Chimera is that its underlying genetics reference two ages, something very new, and something very old: generative art and still life painting. The most critical goal of Chimera is that I want to link these two worlds together, as both are very important personally but also to art history.
I have described my relationship with generative art and its influence on my life, but I’ve also loved still life painting for as long as I can remember, especially within the genres of impressionism and expressionism. When I was a kid and started becoming more interested in the visual arts, I was always drawn to still life more than other subjects. My mom is an avid gardener and we often had flowers displayed around the house, so I think there’s a part of my subconscious that associates still life with my childhood. Still life is also very interesting in that it has been viewed historically as prototypical work, an artist seeking to practice their craft, experiment with color and new compositions, a lot like how I used to view my own work as a hobbyist. For the most part, still life was not taken seriously for centuries, the bottom of the hierarchy of genres. Yet some pieces have gone on to be the most important and valuable works in art history.
Lastly, I see still life artwork as time capsules. They show common scenes with common objects, some metaphorical but most literal, their differences and similarities indicating the time and place in which they were created. They are simultaneously timeless and historically specific, present in almost every artistic movement and medium throughout history, from pictograms to contemporary art. It seems like a very organic progression to me to attempt to make a still life project for generative art. This is why I think Chimera is seminal, in that it brings an age-old tradition into the new medium of on-chain artwork, a medium that will have a huge presence in the future.
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Chimera #0, 2022.jpeg
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Chimera #0, 2022. Live view.
JD: Yes, I think there is a very interesting juxtaposition there. What sorts of things should collectors look for in your project as the series is revealed?
MK: Chimera represents many different facets of still life drawing and painting. One of the more interesting traits that the project demonstrates is the variation of stroke style. There are twelve in total, including oil, charcoal, watercolor, and even textile. I had a ton of fun figuring out how to best represent each analog style digitally, using only very simple geometry and no textures. Certain stroke styles are rarer than others, but I think each one does a good job of paying homage to its organic counterpart.
I also spent a significant amount of time on the central subject of each piece, the flowers. There are eight types of flowers, including dahlias, roses, and sunflowers. Each bouquet can be made of up to ten flowers and have one or more species. The shapes of each flower are defined exclusively by mathematical functions, no 3D models or signed distance fields were used. Every flower is unique as well, within the bounds of what its species defines, similar to flowers in real life. You will notice that the orchids are especially unique, even when compared to other orchids. The sunflowers are a reference to the quintessential impressionist sunflowers of Van Gogh, Monet, and others.
The third major component of the project are the potential objects laying on the ground or table, next to the flowers. These are also emulations from traditional still life, ranging from fruit and dishes to books and pipes. There is even a imemento mori, or skull. Each piece has the potential to have any number of these inanimate objects. Lastly, the first thirty-two editions sold will include a 1/1 giclée print on canvas, free of charge. The canvases are stretched and varnished by hand and look quite a lot like an analog painting when seen in person.
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Chimera #0, 2022. Giclée print on canvas..png
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Chimera #0, 2022. Giclée print on canvas.
JD: Wow that’s a great bonus! Anything else people should know to better understand your art?
MK: The underlying themes of Chimera, the mix of old and new, digital and analog, 2D and 3D, are things that I try to reference in most of my work. Almost everything I make involves the input of something very human, analog, or natural, like photos or videos of things that I experience, music, or 3D scans of biological objects. The output of my work is usually something on the other end of the spectrum, something highly digitized, synthetic, and simulated. This transformation of source material to something new is the most critical metaphor behind the artwork I create. I believe we are alive in a truly unique era, a generation between real and synthetic. We can still determine, most of the time, what is real and what is fake, what has grown and what has been generated. But this will not last. Most of us are old enough to remember a world without the internet, a world experiencing a shared, physical reality. Most of us will die in a time where our digital presence outweighs our physical presence, where several realities coexist on a spectrum of virtual and real. This is a tremendous shift, and I hope that my artwork can represent this exchange.
JD: That’s an interesting perspective and digital art does kind of serve as a connective vehicle between the real and the virtual. Could you also speak about where will you be directing the charitable portion of your release?
MK: The charitable portion of Chimera will be donated to cancer research and patient care. This December my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal blood cancer adjacent to leukemia and lymphoma. As I may have indicated in this interview, she is the source of so much love, support, and inspiration in my life, and this project is dedicated to her. The donations will be directed to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, among others, in the hope that new treatment methods continue to be established and those that need help will receive it.
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Manifold Still Life- Sunflowers, 2020. Live view..png
Michael Kozlowski (mpkoz), Manifold Still Life: Sunflowers, 2020. Live view.
JD: I’m really sorry to hear that about your mom. I think it’s great though that you’re able to direct resources to a personally meaningful charity. Ok, one last question for you to wrap up, what’s the best way for people to follow your work?
MK: My Twitter is probably most up to date with what I am currently working on, and I post finished projects on my Instagram. Both are @mpkoz. I mint 1/1 work on Foundation and SuperRare under the same handle. I also have made several consecutive New Years resolutions to update my website, mpkoz.com, but to date have been unsuccessful. Perhaps this is my year!

More from Spectrum

In Conversation with Emi Kusano on Melancholic Magical Maiden cover photo

INTERVIEW

In Conversation with Emi Kusano on Melancholic Magical Maiden

In Conversation with Ben Kovach cover photo

INTERVIEW

In Conversation with Ben Kovach

In Conversation with Piter Pasma cover photo

INTERVIEW

In Conversation with Piter Pasma

Art Blocks home
Art

© 2022 Art Blocks, Inc. All rights reserved.