Part of pop art's appeal comes in instantly recognizing icons from contemporary life. Andy Warhol's soup cans might've been ridiculously mundane, but they touched many viewers in a more personal way than a pastoral landscape or an abstract grid probably ever could.
The line outside iam8bit stretched for two blocks down Sunset Boulevard last night, loaded with folks in search of 8-bit heroes. It was opening night for "SUPER iam8bit," the fifth in a series of exhibitions of video game-inspired art.A gigantic Galaga game was projected on the wall, but the main characters in the show were Mario and Link, placing the artists firmly in the era of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. In a nice touch, robotic vacuum cleaners swept the floor, made to look like mushrooms from Super Mario Bros. A crowd favorite was Noah Lane's Beat It, a Nintendo Power Glove covered in crystal rhinestones. Mashing up Michael Jackson's signature glove with the flop of a controller first introduced in the Fred Savage movie The Wizard, the piece also brought to mind Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull.
In the same room, Aled Lewis mashed up classic works of art with old-school video games. Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper met Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, while Leisure Suit Larry strolled into Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.
Mash-ups were ubiquitous. Drew Skillman hacked an Xbox Kinect and enabled viewers to see 8-bit representations of themselves, while Darick Massen played mad scientist and attached a pair of chicken winds to a taxidermed turtle. The result: A creepy, real-life Koopa Paratroopa.
With almost 100 artists participating in the show, not every piece was mind-boggingly brilliant, but each gave viewers a glimpse at a simpler past, when game controllers had two buttons at most, and our biggest setback was finding out the Princess was in another castle.
Who wouldn't wait in line for that bit of recognition?