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From ‘Twin Flames’ to Tarot: Justin Aversano Exhibits ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ Photo NFTs

“Twin Flames,” 100 photos of twin siblings tokenized on the Ethereum blockchain by Justin Aversano, set the standard for NFT-based photography projects. The project has captivated collectors, sold millions of dollars, and made it to Christie’s and the LACMA (LACMA).

Aversano will debut his second collection, “Smoke and Mirrors,” at Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles on Saturday. Aversano’s “Smoke and Mirrors” tarot card deck, launched last year as Ethereum NFTs, has a portrait for each card. Following “Twin Flames,” Aversano took the photos between 2018 and 2021.

Aversano told Decrypt that he got the idea for the new series while sitting in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan’s East Village and saw a man ranting about black magic with a tarot deck. Aversano noticed a growing interest in tarot cards, which matched his interest in mysticism and magic.

“He comes right in front of me and he throws the tarot cards,” Aversano said. “They’re all raining down in front of me, and I’m like: What’s going on? “Hey, can I have these?” I asked him, looking at the cards. Are you discarding these? “Fuck that black magic shit,” he says. I’m not interested.”

He received a tarot deck and was inspired to make his own photo “deck.” Aversano played the “Knight of Staffs,” the only card missing from the set that fell on him. He then shot Neil Gaiman, Pussy Riot musician Nadya Tolokonnikova, and the Winklevoss twins.

“Smoke and Mirrors” is 78 black-and-white photos sold as Ethereum NFTs last year. Gabba will display papyrus silkscreen prints of the original images from March 25 to April 8. Aversano’s father standing next to his mother’s gravestone is the most striking of the black-and-white portraits.

“This [collection] confronts fear and death, and I honor this project towards my father,” he said. My father’s death card is next to my mother’s grave for a reason. It’s my most honest and best photo. […] It halts you.”

Aversano initially planned four shows for “Smoke and Mirrors,” but she reduced it to two: the Los Angeles show and a Berlin show curated by Anika Meier at Expanded.Art from April 25 to May 14. His first L.A. show, at the Gabba, was “the one that matters the most,” he said. He and Gabba Gallery owner and curator Jason Ostro have made silkscreens in the back for two years. “I’ve never seen a gallerist show up for me like Jason has at Gabba, in my life,” Aversano said.

Aversano could have shown “Smoke and Mirrors” at a bigger gallery given his rising profile and name recognition over the last two years. Gabba is home for the project, and he called it the “most honorable thing to do.”

“It’s real—not Pace or Gagosian. Aversano called it a community gallery. “What we have here is the truth, and it’s down to earth: you just need a space to exhibit, and it doesn’t need to be the best space in the world. Just what feels right.” What will Aversano do after the shows, book release (via NFT redemption tickets), and project completion? “I’ll disappear,” he told Decrypt. “That’s my final magic trick after ‘Smoke and Mirrors’—I’ll disappear.”


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