Imagine walking down the streets of New York City and stumbling upon a palm tree. You would be surprised and charmed to see the semi-tropical plant outside of its normal environment. This Summer, Will Nichols is bringing this vision to life through the blending of URL with IRL for his 3rd show in 2021. Will Nichols has partnered with 721 Collective to create an augmented reality (AR) exhibition titled Palm Trees in New York that includes site-specific installation that blurs the lines between digital and physical.
Coming on the heels of two successful 2021 showings, debut solo show LOST IN PARADISE with Plan X Art Gallery and group show Montauk with Rosenbaum contemporary, this new body of work is the first chapter of a project the artist sees as a lifelong endeavor: Nichols will be activating five locations throughout NYC with augmented reality palm trees, the artist’s emerging leitmotif representing the warmth, community, and joy of his home in southern California. Harnessing digital juxtaposition is Nichols’ way of exporting these energies through use and placement of the symbol: the semi-tropical plant set in the northern climes of New York is possible through the leveraging of AR technology. Each palm tree is minted as a non-fungible token (NFT) representing a unique piece that is one 1/1 digital asset. After the New York exhibition, the owners of these digital palm trees can take control of the geo coordinates of AR Palm Tree and can move them wherever they please.
The palm trees will be planted at five distinct locations throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan that have personal resonance for the artist, as well as represent the creative culture beat of the city itself. From the Williamsburg Ferry landing to a dive bar on the Lower East Side, visitors will be able to activate the artworks in their open air locations. Through the medium of digital engagement, Nichols’ entire body of work is accessible outside of the four walls of the traditional gallery space: The site-specific technologic practice culminates the artist’s vision of breaking down barriers to entry in the art world, taking cues from practices that take their art “to the streets,” but with a digital-first method. This exhibition provides an experience of the new world where the line between digital and physical is blurred, and showgoers can interact directly with Nichols’ vision just by supporting it online. The artist’s focus is giving back to his supporters and sharing the unique interconnectedness of community and place: Palm Trees in New York illuminates this through new explorations of bringing the URL to the IRL.
Will Nichols’ introduction to NYC was abrupt and serendipitous. On the second to last Sunday of June 2015, he received a phone call from a friend who offered him a job as a full-time creative for Adidas Originals. The caveat was that if he wanted to take the job, he would have to be in NYC the following Monday. Looking back on that leap of faith, it was the best decision Will had ever made in his life.
Will settled in the neighborhood of N Williamsburg and made the daily commute to Wall Street for work on the water ferry. At the same time, he was also contracting as the Social Media Director for menswear magazine Highsnobiety. By wild coincidence, the offices of Highsnobiety were directly across the street from his new office. Will regularly would peer across the street between office windows overlooking the Charging Bull.
As Will’s time in New York passed, he connected with new contemporaries and developed life-long friendships through these new circles. Their shared times together were spent exploring different subcultures within various neighborhoods which provided him with an unlimited amount of inspiration and joy. The beauty of people in their element is magic.
After 6-8 months into his time in NYC, the concrete jungle and its walls began to have an impact on Will’s creativity. The harsh environment of concrete everywhere left him creatively stifled. Will’s creative approach is heavily influenced by the spaces he is surrounded by, which eventually brought him back to LA in June of 2016.