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How much bang for your blockchain at this NFT-only show?

Pellas Gallery’s ‘New Horizons’ delivers flash, but leaves little chance for reflection

Planttdaddii, "ɖʀօք ɨȶ"Planttdaddii

Pellas Gallery’s “New Horizons” show isn’t the first time NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have been exhibited in a local gallery. But it’s the first Boston-area group show I’ve seen devoted entirely to the crypto-artworks that collectors register on a digital ledger called a blockchain.

NFT art has supercharged the art market. And the show, curated by artist Alex Ness of NessGraphics, feels supercharged, too. Most of the pieces are animated on 20-second loops; some are still. The imagery is eye-popping, and the hardware is sleek. The 10 works featured are intoxicatingly sumptuous.

But that heady effect is like meeting an attractive stranger at a bar after a few too many drinks. Do you really want to take that person — or this art — home? Glitz has a meltingly swift shelf life, while good art is something it takes time to get to know.

The title of Ness’s own piece, “FL1PP3R.v.01,” a dense, feverish, flashy image of a pinball machine with pounding techno music, acknowledges the sizzling market’s penchant for turnover. The allusion is clever, but it’s a wink, not a full-blown consideration of the market’s context and effects.


NessGraphics, "FL1PP3R.v.01"NessGraphics

One robot teaches another to fish in Ryan Talbot’s Pixar-level adorable “Gone Fishing.” You could fall into the piece’s deep blues and glowing oranges, and the robots chirp sweetly. But like most of the NFTs here, it seems focused more on attracting eyeballs than prompting reflection.

Ryan Talbot, "Gone Fishing" Ryan Talbot

There are a few exceptions. A luminous orb with churning clouds spins in a darkened space in GMUNK’s “Ethero Stratos.” The piece, which has a surprisingly deep, rumbling soundtrack, references Taoism’s circle of yin and yang, and it fulfills that symbol’s embodiment of complementarity — it’s still but roiling, dark but light. It could be a centerpiece in a meditation room.


Raf Grassetti’s “Infinity” depicts a head-and-shoulders bust, illuminated from within. The form turns slightly — and hypnotically — back and forth. The eye breezes past the classically beautiful exterior, which Grassetti renders in matte gray, to the more captivating interior, where light rises and falls in a sighing rhythm.

Raf Grassetti, "Infinity"Raf Grassetti

GMUNK’s and Grassetti’s NFTs provide more than visual saturation or a sugar high — they invite a viewer to spend time. I suppose if a collector buys an NFT just to flip it, the time spent doesn’t matter much. But that’s not art. That’s just overblown value.


At Pellas Gallery, 114 Newbury St., through April 23. 424-394-2184, www.pellasgallery.com

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.