The term “shape packing” in the generative art world refers to the packing of numerous shapes into a specified area, often without the shapes overlapping or intersecting each other. This can be done with any shape: circles, squares, triangles, etc., and can create a rather pleasant visual effect. Artworks utilizing shape packing can also use shapes that vary in size, color, and other creative attributes. fxhash is full of examples of shape packing, but one that stands out is Box Packing, the genesis project from the artist idflood.
Box Packing is a masterful example of the shape packing technique, and a work that happily owns its origins. The algorithm randomly fills the canvas with variously sized boxes (surprise!), while also being filled with hundreds of contrasting dots that create a nice, detailed texture (as seen below). The density of the dot population is typically more significant on one side of the box – giving each piece a sense of sophisticated depth. It lessens as it moves towards the opposite edge, accentuating an enjoyable stippled effect.
Other attributes allow for outputs to have unfilled boxes, partially filled boxes, boxes with lines in them, different rotations and zoom effects, etc. These additional features provide great output variation and, coupled with a beautiful array of color palettes, really support the 512-edition size of the project.
The variety of these palettes in Box Packing is so expertly put together that you get a completely different feel from piece to piece. Yet, the collection is cohesive enough in style and process that you know what you are looking at. For example, palette 21 reminds me of cotton candy and brings me back to my childhood and going to carnivals or fairs with my family! While palette 6 reminds me of a dusty, rural town with some old-school ice cream shops and a straight-edge barber. Some exude power with deep reds and blues, while others are softer or more playful with light oranges, purples, and pastels. The range of emotions you can have is crazy, if you scroll through the whole collection and spend some time with all 25 different palettes.
That said, I'm a sucker for the monochrome palettes. There is something so appealing and moving to me about the black and white Box Packing pieces. I get such a vintage vibe from the monochrome, as if they were created in a time that predated color. They seem foundational to the collection, like the base that allowed everything else to happen in color. An ode to things of old, like photographs, television, etc., which began with black and white origins and are often still better viewed that way. Even within the monochrome Box Packing pieces, there is such great variation.
Box Packing is a piece that you need to watch render. It gets so much better as you watch it all come together. This is also, I believe, the main reason people don’t fully understand the project’s greatness. The thumbnail for each iteration is a moment in time in the rendering of that particular output and doesn’t necessarily reflect the true beauty of the actual artwork. There are many projects like this on fxhash, but Box Packing is the first one I can remember being pleasantly surprised by when I opened the project and watched it render fully. It created a new excitement and appreciation for what generative art can do.
As a personal aside, Box Packing came at such a special time in my life that my connection with it became strong as a result. I was actually at a hotel in Dallas on a house hunting trip. For career reasons, I was moving from Arizona, where I had lived my whole life. So, when Box Packing dropped, my house in Arizona was literally packed in boxes, and I was embarking on a new life/career journey. It was one of my fondest moments in fxhash history: Being up late at night, minting Box Packing, while my entire material life was packed up in boxes. Poetic. Thanks, idflood, for those memories.