Lazlo Lissitsky

One of the major problems with my so-called “neo-suprematism” theory and the glitch textures was that really really complicated compositions get lost in the texture or get lost in the broken geometry. You can only do so much with the basics, and once you get beyond it they turn into mush when there’s not enough contrast or clear lines and shapes – but you can’t go back, because you’ve declared clarity arrogance. Not only that, but I had always been impressed by Ellen Lupton’s statement that one of the characteristics of modern design is the goal to produce unexpected results.

How could I solve the problem of complex compositions and create surprising designs? In mid-2019 I discovered a little program by Mykola Leonovych that was meant to simulate one of my earlier idols, Malevich. I had also been fascinated by the Bauhaus movement and later Swiss Modern design – but these did not fit neatly into the sgt_slaughtermelon canon of ideas and techniques. So instead of trying to bend slaughtermelon pieces to fit this desire, I created a synthetic artist – a program I called Lazlo Lissitsky. A combination of Lazlo Maholy-Nagy and El Lissitzsky. I studied their designs and their contemporaries and added a GUI to Leonovych’s program and started stacking case loop after case loop mixed with RNG mixed with new palette matrices and in general just really pushed the limit of what I’m capable of in terms of computer science. The result has been an evolving program that generates the kind of designs that El and Laszlo made, sometimes with their own palettes, and sometimes patterns a bit more like Swiss Modern designers – but all of it in a modernist milieu that I had declared too arrogant for sgt_slaughtermelon to be a part of (so now he wasn’t). This project gets revised and expanded and refined every few months – and the archives of his designs are one of the footholds that first got me into crypto art.

The first few pieces of Lazlo Lissitsky to make their way onto the market were animated GIFs of month-long archives. I considered it too expensive and risky to mint modernist generative art and hope people agreed with me on its value. Eventually, lazy-minting was created and the risk seemed worth the potential, and the present form of static pieces 1500×1500 with long titles was born.

As the project went on, the naming conventions became more elaborate. I had a game I used to play with a good friend that involved picking books in bookstores at random and guessing the copyright year of the book based on the cover design. It was a game about intuiting design trends based on decades, cultural shifts in palettes and typography. The names were also kind of an in-joke about how pedestrian swiss modern design became, how much these modernist expressionist geometric compositions had been kind of domesticated in the service of trivialities like handbooks on pancake varieties, microhistories – but still sometimes being used for little cherished poetry paperbacks and such. The lore has always been that this fictional Lazlo Lissitsky character made all the designs that you see for various book covers, pamphlets, album covers, etc – and these are the print examples of a relatively long career circa 1918-1999. The absurd names and long titles and even irrelevant details like publishers, editions etc. are all either oblique references to pop culture or literature or what-have-you or just funny things I thought sounded just barely real. It’s also kind of a lament over that entire genre of art turning into decor for other subjects, I hope that sadness comes through just a little.

The collection became one of the projects I’m most proud of on Opensea.

In the final stages of the project, the complexity was getting out of hand and I couldn’t troubleshoot bugs very easily. A friend I knew from middleschool sort of ran into me and offered to help me refactor and expand the program in several ways. At this point – it’s a monstrosity of a program that does all kinds of things that between us we understand only most of the time. The complexity also means that curating is very time-intensive, there are not rails put on Lazlo Lissitsky to make sure it produces lovely things according to concepts we deliver to it, it’s a bit of human orchestrated generative chaos that has just enough structure and emergent patterns built into it to surprise the viewer with the occasional moment of zen.