TAMPA — Los Angeles-based artist Tristan Eaton isn’t afraid to push himself.
So when he was approached by Tampa’s CASS Contemporary to create a show specifically for the gallery, he rose to the occasion.
The result is “Doves of War,” 75 art prints with a unifying silhouette of the bird with a target on it, but each has a unique image within it that includes elements from Eaton’s body of paintings, making no two alike. Each print is an edition of five.
Eaton, 44, said this is a departure from his normal print collections because it’s not the same image repeated.
Eaton has long been a pioneer in art. He is the co-founder of designer art toy company Kid Robot, for which he designed the iconic Dunny and Munny characters. He has murals all over the world, including one in Tampa on the Bern’s Steak House wine warehouse. In 2020, he was commissioned by SpaceX to create an artwork that was placed on the space shuttle Crew Dragon’s inaugural journey to the International Space Station.
He has worked with CASS — which is owned by Cassie and Jake Greatens — on several projects, including the Bern’s mural. The gallery also published his first book of paintings. Eaton said the gallery has been a big supporter of him and has sold a lot of paintings to their collectors.
“Doves of War” is proving to be popular with CASS collectors. Forty pieces of the collection have sold out.
The series was conceived to address the “flawed pursuit of peace,” but really Eaton said the concept is antiwar globally and gun violence locally.
To achieve that message, he took the prints to a shooting range and shot them with an AR-15 and a Glock 9, giving each one unique ballistics damage.
“The idea was to kind of make a point about how numb we are to gun violence by using gun violence literally in the art-making process,” he said. “... I felt like it was an interesting way to make a statement, but also use these tools of violence to actually create something beautiful.”
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Eaton said that while he believes in gun ownership, he’s concerned about the wide range of laws and approaches to gun safety and gun culture across the country.
“Guns are such a part of our cultural zeitgeist that it’s hard to ignore it,” he said. “So I feel like it’s something that I need to speak about and use my platform to discuss.”
He said while he found the process of shooting 1,000 rounds a day and seeing the damage done unsettling, he also experienced excitement and the allure of guns.
“It’s a complicated topic. And I wanted to kind of experience that part of it in the process of making these, so it’s really emotionally charged,” he said.
There is also an NFT of one of the prints available for 70 people to purchase. It comes with an Infinite Objects digital screen as a way to display the digital file.
Eaton was attracted to NFT digital files because they have an encryption that gives artists royalties every time they’re sold and resold, whereas artists don’t receive any money from work that is sold at auction.
“That to me is a big revolution for digital artists,” he said. “To me, it’s just like another medium like silkscreen or engraving.”
His previous NFT project GEMMA (Generative Electronic Museum of Metaverse Art) allows people to buy unique versions of his work that combine portraiture and collage using artificial intelligence to generate 5,000 variations of it. Buyers have the option to destroy the NFT in exchange for a physical print. In turn, when the digital file is destroyed, the collection gets smaller and more valuable.
Eaton said a community has been formed by the people who buy a GEMMA, who get access to secret parts of his website and special perks. He connects with his NFT collectors on the social platform Discord, where he can chat with fans and crowdsource design ideas.
He said the fans connect with each other and form factions based on common appreciation for certain elements of his art.
While there are criticisms about the environmental impacts of NFTs, Eaton is on the Ethereum blockchain, which uses the energy of a lightbulb.
“For artists that have had an existing career and existing fan base, there’s ways to use the technology to enhance that experience with the art in ways that makes sense,” he said. “It’s been really fun figuring it out. And also being in it so early, you’re innovating just by default.”
For more information about Eaton, visit tristaneaton.com.
If you go
“Doves of War.” Remains on view through Dec. 10. Open by appointment only. 2722 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. 813-361-5000. Eaton’s collection can be viewed at casscontemporary.com.