At the dawn of the video game era, lots of kids spent hundreds of hours inside cramped, noisy arcades staring at pixeled screens until the otherworldly images of aliens, spaceships, gargantuan centipedes and traffic-dodging frogs burned permanently into their impressionable brains. Some of these kids grew up to be artists. A few of them began incorporating imagery from their favorite games into their artwork. The eye-popping result is I Am 8-Bit.
An underappreciated aspect of video games is that the best of them are designed to be very easy on the eye. A few can even be described as beautiful works of moving, interactive art.
I Am 8-Bit, an annual art show in Los Angeles, is a bizarre yet charmingly nostalgic tribute celebrating (and sometimes satirizing) the unique aesthetics of classic video games of the Reagan decade. The 2006 exhibit just closed a couple weeks ago after a month-long show at Gallery Nineteen Eighty Eight. More than 100 artists from around the world came together to present paintings, sculptures, drawings and multimedia based, in one way or another, on the funky look and feel of old-style arcade games.
For those who came of age during the era, I Am 8-Bit is a comforting trip down memory lane. For 21st century kids running IVs from their Xboxes straight into their arms, this, young uns, is how grandpa used to do it.
Here are a few examples from the show. You can see more at www.iam8bit.net. A book of art from the exhibit—I Am 8-Bit: Art Inspired by Classic Video Games of the ’80s by Jon M. Gibson (foreword by Chuck Klosterman)—was released this April, published by Chronicle Books (paper, $22.95).