In the same way artists of the Renaissance were influenced by the Bible they read every day and the Impressionists influenced by the rapidly modernizing Paris they observed every day, an increasing number of contemporary artists are being influenced by the video games they play every day. With more than 166 million American gamers according to a 2018 Entertainment Software Association survey, the Akron (Ohio) Art Museum examines the connection between gaming and visual art in “Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art.”
“Open World” presents the work of artists who use video games as a catalyst for making art. The term refers to open-world video games which allow a player to roam through a virtual world, freely selecting their objectives.
“Although all of the artists in ‘Open World’ are influenced by video games, the artwork they make is about more than gaming culture,” Curator of Exhibitions at the Akron Art Museum Theresa Bembnister said. “The artists tackle topics crucial to contemporary life including the role of consumer products in shaping personal identity and technology’s ability to create credible—yet false—imagery.”
Video games have rarely been considered as a major influence on contemporary art previous to this exhibit.
Artworks in “Open World” reference a broad cross section of games ranging from early text adventure and arcade games through the Nintendo giants of the 1980s and 1990s including Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda to more recent releases such as World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto.
In addition to traditional media like painting, drawing and sculpture, the exhibition also highlights textiles, prints, animation, video games, video game modifications and game-based performances and interventions by makers who self-identify as artists.
“For ‘Open World’ I really wanted to go beyond the question or whether or not games are art and to demonstrate the growing influence of games on the creation of visual art in a variety of digital and traditional media such as painting, quilting and drawing,” Bembnister said.
Bembnister began contemplating a museum exhibit exploring the influence of video games on contemporary art in the early 2000s. The more artists she met–primarily digital natives (people raised with a full immersion to digital technology, computers, smart phones, the Internet, etc.)–and the more she heard them reference gaming as an influence on their practice, the more convinced she became of the validity of her idea.
These artists were not necessarily working in digital media. They could be making traditional landscape paintings, but the aesthetics of the backgrounds of, Sonic the Hedgehog, shaped the way they depicted color and space through paint on a canvas. This was a phenomenon I rarely saw acknowledged or examined in museum exhibitions.
“Open World” can be seen at the Akron Art Museum through February 2 and will travel to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire (March 21–June 28), followed by the San José Museum of Art (September 10–January 10, 2021).
Meanwhile, in Boston, this same connection is highlighted as the city’s newest art museum, the MassArt Art Museum, opens its doors for the first time February 22. The non-collecting institution affiliated with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design presents “Game Changers: Video Games & Contemporary Art” as one of its inaugural exhibitions.
The Boston and Akron exhibits share in their displaying of virtual reality artwork.
“Virtual reality is becoming more and more prevalent in museum and gallery settings,” Bembnister said.
Her museum commissioned a new virtual reality work from artist Rachel Rossin specifically for “Open World.”
As the audience for gaming continues growing–competitive college and professional e-sports teams and leagues are now well established with star players, million-dollar prize pools, fan-filled arenas and major global television distribution–expect art museums to continue mining the genre to find new audiences. The Akron Art Museum gave thought to the question of how to convert some portion of the enormous gamer community into art lovers, museum goers and art collectors when crafting its marketing plan for the exhibit.
“Both gamers and art lovers are drawn by the visual, on some level, so that’s an important jumping off point,” Akron Art Museum Deputy Director and Chief Experience Officer Seema Rao said. “I also think both groups have an inherent love of craft, if perhaps different types of craft; in the end, I think the overlap is that art people love thoughtful art and learn about games in this exhibitions, and game lovers have the games as their entry point.”
2 Art Gallery Shows to See Right Now – The New York Times
Through Oct. 24. Tanya Bonakdar, 521 West 21st Street, Manhattan; 212-414-4144, tanyabonakdargallery.com.
When the Museum of Modern Art inaugurated its latest expansion almost exactly a year ago — in another era — Rivane Neuenschwander’s installation “Work of Days” was among the most subtle and serene of the celebratory exhibitions. It consisted of a room tiled entirely with squares of white paper embedded with little specks — dust, hair and what not — the stuff continually floating to earth all around us, every second of every day. It was a perfect summation of this Brazilian artist’s modesty, and her love of the random, the collaborative and the ephemeral.
But things have changed for the worse since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and its frequent mishandling, especially in Brazil and the United States. Ms. Neuenschwander, like many people, is experiencing a certain rage. As a result, she has made some of the most furiously beautiful — and nonephemeral — works of her career: most notably the five violent, gorgeously colored tapestries and five small paintings on wood that are part of her series “Tropics: Damned, Orgasmic and Devoted.” They form the centerpiece of her unsettling exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar.
Inspired by erotic Japanese woodcuts, these works feature piles of garments and entangled, vividly hybrid creatures whose parts are variously human, insect, reptile, plant or imaginary. Blood flows amid scenes of mutual, possibly ritualistic, destruction whose victims are apparently female but whose conflict reflects the state of the world. There are several visual echoes, including Goya’s “The Disasters of War” and the elegantly perverse beings of Leonora Carrington’s Surrealist paintings. (Contributing to the intensity: the creative textures of the tapestries’ red areas, improvised by their weavers.)
The tapestries are introduced by two dozen small gouache drawings of monsters in black and red, based on children’s renderings of their most pressing fears — including snakes, volcanoes war, horror films — culled from workshops conducted by the artist. A more characteristically conceptual piece involving soldiers’ postcards home comments on the senselessness of war. And finally, “Fear of,” a small textile combining appliqué, embroidery and paint whose sewn-on letters spell out some of the present’s daily terrors like fear of virus, fear of war, culminating in fear of the end of the world. This vividly vehement thing — populated by some of the monsters from the small gouaches — was made by Ms. Neuenschwander as she sheltered in place this summer. It is wonderful: small but concentrated, with a robust, unfussy handiwork that is rare in her art. It highlights a propensity that could be allowed to shine more often.
Through Nov. 7. Ryan Lee, 515 West 26th Street, Manhattan; 212-397-0742, ryanleegallery.com.
Part of what I’ve found difficult to handle about this year has been the constant uncertainty. Between the pandemic, national politics and climate change, much of life is in dizzying flux. Ryan Lee’s Emma Amos exhibition “Falling Figures” captures this feeling better than any other art I’ve seen since March. And most of the work was made between 1988 and 1992.
Ms. Amos, who died in May at 83, was a doggedly inventive artist. She used figurative painting, textiles and print media — sometimes all three in one piece — to represent the complexity of her identity as an African-American woman and to push back on the ways that Black life has been treated in white Western art. One of her motifs was the theme of the current show: figures falling or flying through abstract space, which is often painted with expressionistic jags and bright swaths of color.
The characters in these works seem caught in physical and existential states of suspension. Many have their mouths open in expressions that suggest wonder as much as alarm — or, in the case of the artist’s self-portrait in “The Overseer” (circa 1992), a scream of righteous rage. Sometimes their bodies seem to float upward more than down, like the ghostly white figures in “Thurgood and Thelonious, Some Names to Name Your Children” (1989), who appear caught in a cosmic swirl. Rarely alone, they often look at or reach out for others — in “Will You Forget Me” (1991), the artist grips a portrait of her mother — suggesting that falling is not a solitary but a social experience.
Patterned pieces of hand-woven and African fabric appear in every piece, appended as clothing and used for framing; they add stability and exuberance. Although she never loses sight of the startling fear of tumbling into the unknown, Ms. Amos also contends that it offers a possibility worth celebrating: that of breaking free. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Flattened Basketballs as Art – The New York Times
For many of us, the outdoors serve as a refuge — a place to gather (at a social distance, of course) and live some sort of normalcy as the pandemic continues to disrupt society.
Then there is the artist Tyrrell Winston, who has spent years scouring the outside world to gather the material he has made integral to his work. Winston’s pieces are typically made with objects he finds outside — most commonly, flattened basketballs and cigarette butts.
“When I’m walking down the street, I’m seeing art materials,” Winston said during a recent Zoom interview. “It’s literally, ‘What can I use or what can I look at that I have never seen before?’”
Winston, 35, is based in New York City and has no formal art training, but he has made a career out of combining his two loves — basketball and art — to create compelling three-dimensional works. He said he was currently constructing something for Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers: a piece of 168 flattened basketballs. (Gilbert had commissioned two other pieces by Winston that are outside the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, where the Cavaliers play.)
Once Winston finishes this piece, it will be the largest artwork of flattened basketballs collected by an N.B.A. owner, supplanting one that belongs to Michael Rubin, a Philadelphia 76ers co-owner, who has a Winston piece made of 105 basketballs.
The flattened basketballs used to come from Winston’s travels through Manhattan and Brooklyn. A used basketball, he said, tells its own story. “And I do not have to ascribe, put words with it, and it becomes abstract in that way,” he said. “I want my work to mean many things to many people. There is no one definitive meaning.”
Now, Winston has graffiti artists sourcing balls for him in California, upstate New York, Florida, Texas and other parts of the United States. They often come from train tracks, Winston said, a common home for basketballs. Or junk shops. Estate sales. Any place. They just have to be used.
“Weather is my favorite assistant, and that’s just something I have no desire to try to figure out how to manipulate or that I want to, because the ethos of the work is about all of these touches that are not mine,” he said.
One reason Winston started using found pieces for his art was that he had $150,000 in college debt when he graduated from Wagner College with an arts administration major during the recession in 2008. He did not have money to buy materials, and on top of that, he didn’t know how to paint. But he knew he wanted to be an artist, especially after attending a Dada exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
Two of Winston’s biggest influences are Marcel Duchamp, the French artist who died in 1968, and David Hammons, an American artist. They pioneered “found art” pieces — although in very different ways. Duchamp was a father of Dadaism, an avant-garde art movement of the early 20th century that aimed to be “anti-art.” He dabbled in the whimsy and the outward rejection of conventional art, as in his piece “Fountain,” a urinal he signed “R. Mutt,” considered one of the most notable artworks of the 20th century. In the latter half of the 20th century, Hammons constructed several vivid commentaries on being Black in America through pieces made from hair on the floor in barbershops, from sweatshirts and from constructing basketball hoops several stories high, among many others.
Sports are a clear influence on Winston’s art, even aside from flattened basketballs and used nets — another common material for him. He grew up a Los Angeles Clippers fan in Orange County, Calif. One of his pieces, 2019’s “Don’t Forget to Floss,” has a used basketball rim on top of a stool. It is a direct homage to Duchamp, who did the same with a bicycle wheel in one of his early works. Winston’s latest exhibit is a digital display with the gallery Library Street Collective in Detroit. Sports fans will find many of the pieces familiar and possibly sacrilegious, depending on one’s point of view.
Winston, whose work has been displayed all over the world, takes on a sports-obsessed society, particularly the hype surrounding sports memorabilia. Here is a look at some of the pieces on display.
In this series of paintings, Winston recreates the signatures of some of the most famous athletes in history — painting their autographs over and over in a series called “Punishment Paintings.” Among the athletes whose autographs Winston recreates are Michael Jordan, Pete Rose, Muhammad Ali and Mickey Mantle. He suggests that their level of fame is a form of “punishment” in itself, because society does not allow them to be flawed.
“I want people to ask, ‘Why have I chosen these people?’” Winston said, adding, “We have commodified some of these athletes and we look at them as immortal and put an unfair expectation on them sometimes.”
But Winston said that the punishment of fame isn’t the only kind of punishment he is concerned with. There is also the physical.
“So when I say, ‘Punishment Paintings,’ too, it’s the training and the mental endurance that these people that we put on these pedestals have to endure,” Winston said.
This is one that hard-core sports fans may find surprising. Winston simply takes pieces of valuable, authenticated, signed memorabilia — such as a Jordan-autographed basketball and a Rose-signed baseball — and puts his own John Hancock on them, a purposeful act of desecration.
The act is a homage in itself. Winston likened it to one by Robert Rauschenberg, the influential American artist who, like Duchamp, specialized in turning artistic expectations on their head. Rauschenberg once took a valuable drawing by Willem de Kooning, another 20th-century giant of American art who popularized Abstract Expressionism, and erased it with de Kooning’s permission. He put the blank piece of paper on display in 1953. Even as one of Rauschenberg’s most daring pieces, to take a valuable drawing and perform an act of what some would consider destruction, it did not create a public sensation until the 1960s.
To Winston, the signing of the Jordan ball is a tribute in itself. But he has an analogy that basketball fans today may more readily recognize as an explanation for this piece of work.
“It is Iverson crossing over Jordan his rookie year and hitting that shot,” Winston said. “I like to have those parallels. This is a moment in our history, but it’s also an athletic accomplishment. And me doing that Jordan ball, I mean, I’ll tell you, man, I was so nervous. It’s because of the respect and the admiration that I have for Michael Jordan as a basketball player. And I still think my signature looks kind of funny on it because I have so much respect.”
Manitoba celebrates outstanding philanthropist in the arts – CHVN Radio
Six people from around the province are being recognized for their bold philanthropic efforts.
Michael Nesbitt is being awarded the Outstanding Philanthropist Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Manitoba Chapter (AFP).
There will be a virtual ceremony on November 13 to recognize six incredible people and corporations and their contributions to our province.
Nesbitt owns Montrose Mortgage Corporation, however, it’s his investment in the arts that has him being honoured.
Although there was not much art culture in Nesbitt’s household in his childhood, his love for it started when he went to Toronto after high school.
“My first exposure to art was when I graduated from University. My younger sister gave me a cheque and she said ‘think about buying some art, because art matters’.”
After learning more about fine art, Nesbitt went out in Toronto and purchased his first piece. Since then his love for art has grown.
He is being recognized for his investment in the U of M, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, the Graffiti Gallery, Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Manitoba Opera.
Since COVID-19 hit, Nesbitt, like many, has missed being able to go see live performances, including the Opera.
“I think it’s fair to say music is a big part of my life.”
Nesbitt will be part of the celebration evening in November, put on by AFP.
“Typically in the past, I haven’t been willing to accept these awards and tried to be under the radar. But I think in the last while I’ve come to realize it’s important for others to know what people like myself are doing. I hope other people will take notice and step up and help, not only the arts but other charities,” says Nesbitt.
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