Oct. 21, 2021 - Feb. 21, 2022
Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery
According to a 2018 Entertainment Software Association survey, more than 166 million Americans play video games. Visual artists are gamers, too, yet video games are rarely examined as a major influence on contemporary art. Open World draws attention to this phenomenon through the presentation of artworks including painting, sculpture, textiles, prints, drawings, animation, video games, video game modifications and game-based performances and interventions by makers who self-identify as artists.
The artworks in Open World reference a broad cross-section of games, ranging from early text adventure and arcade games to modern massively multiplayer online roleplaying games and first-person shooters. Participating artists are influenced by some of the most beloved video game franchises, including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, The Sims and Final Fantasy.
The exhibition’s title refers to open-world video games, which allow a player to roam through a virtual world, freely selecting their objectives. The title also draws attention to the rich opportunities video games offer for creative expression. Through games, artists build immersive, alternate words. They use digital games to create meaning through imagery, music, sound effects, animation and narrative. The rules governing the experience of playing a video game can express a viewpoint and encourage critical thinking or empathy by directing the player’s attention to systems at work within the real world.
The artists participating in Open World include: Ueli Alder (Hemberg, Switzerland), Cory Arcangel (New York), Alan Butler (Dublin), JooYoung Choi (Houston), Joseph DeLappe (Dundee, Scotland), Krista Hoefle (South Bend, Ind.), Invader (Paris), Butt Johnson (New York), Angelo Ray Martínez (South Bend, Ind.), Michael Menchaca (San Antonio, Texas), Feng Mengbo (Beijing), Joan Pamboukes (New York), Oliver Payne (Los Angeles), Tim Portlock (St. Louis), Tabor Robak (New York), Rachel Rossin (New York), Jacolby Satterwhite (New York), Skawennati (Montreal), Suzanne Treister (London), Nathan Vincent (Los Angeles), Bill Viola (Long Beach, Calif.) and USC Game Innovation Lab (Los Angeles), Angela Washko (Pittsburgh) and Mathew Zefeldt (Minneapolis).
Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, The Tom and Marilyn Merryweather Fund, and National Endowment for the Arts.
This exhibition is also made possible through the generous support of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation, Annie Bohanon, Christian Kanady, George Records, Glenna and Richard Tanenbaum and Velocigo.
Images: Installation view of Open World at Akron Art Museum. Photo by Mike Crupi Photography. Installation view of Nathan Vincent’s Playing with Fire (2013) and Joystick (2011) at Akron Art Museum. Photo by Mike Crupi Photography.