Nov 7, 2011

REVIEW | I AM 8-BIT, Jon M. Gibson, Chronicle Books LLC, 2006

I AM 8-BIT, Jon M. Gibson, Chronicle Books LLC, 2006

"I AM 8-BIT" is a collection of themed art works that were produced by artists who were inspired by their favorite 80s classic video games. Making an Impact on pop culture, the games of the 80s have not only lead to the advancement of modern video games, but they have also created a new platform of inspiration for the art world. "I AM 8-BIT" displays each artists' work with a bit of information; of all the great artists, two of them (Gabe Swarr and Jose Emroca Flores) depict certain iconic characters that stand out among others. The creation of these iconic games and characters from the 80s into amazing visual works of art has continued to hold it's place in poplar culture while influencing future generations of gamers and artists.

Containing a collaboration of artists who come from various professions, "I AM 8-BIT" displays their visually pleasing works from page to page while a selected few artists comment about the games, memories, and feelings that inspired their amazing pieces. Creative depictions of the Super Mario Brothers, Pac-man, and an assortment of other iconic 80's video games immerse the pages of "I AM 8-BIT". Each piece brings a sense of nostalgia to the viewer, especially for gamers who grew up alongside these games. The memories of playing games such as Super Mario Bros. hours on end just trying to get to the next level, flood the mind as you are viewing each piece of work. For those who never played video games (or at least the games of the 80s), the pieces here speak out to the viewer and convey a sense of the game and the emotions the gamers/artists may have felt that have inspired each composition.

Gabe Swarr, Super Mario World, acrylic on illustration board, 33 x 7 inches

Two artists whose works are presented in "I AM 8-BIT"(Gabe Swarr and Jose Emroca Flores), are two of the most interesting artists that caught my attention more then any of the others. Both artists depict the Super Mario Bro. game but with noticeable differences. Gabe Swarr parlayed his love for Miyamoto, Clampett, and Tezuka into a crusade to make cartoons as cartoony as possible through studios like Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Spumce. Swarr's work with Super Mario are very cartoonish, telling exaggerated stories using scenes from the game. Jose Emroca Flores conceives and creates storyboards for video game megafranchises like Medal of Honor and Lord of the Rings for Electronic Arts in Los Angeles. Flores' oil paintings show more of a realistic darker side of Super Mario. The once short chubby plumber is depicted as an over worked, normal hight, overweight plumber with his Italian princess by his side sitting above an apocalyptic Super Mario World.

Jose Emroca Flores, The M .K., oil on board, 22 1/2 x 17 inches

The video games of the 80s had already marked their place in pop culture and generated a new generation of games and gamers. However, the gamers influenced by those pixel 8-bit video games went on to create magnificent works of art, thus adding to the already huge and ever growing influence videos games has in popular culture. Chronicle Books published an official collection of pieces from the production company, iam8bit, created by Jon M. Gibson, from a show in April 2006 entitled, iam8bit: Art Inspired by Classic Videogame of the 80s, and was promptly carried in retail, book, toy stores, and many other museums and shops. It is one of the best-selling video game-themed books of al time.

Conveying imagination from one 2D plan to another through an assortment of mediums, artists have influenced pop culture today by the video games and game characters of the 80's. Inspiring a production company, an untold amount of artists, having an influence in contemporary art, and continuing to impact popular culture, the 8-bit video games of the 1980s have gone past their expectations while continuing to grow and innovate the industry. "I AM 8-BIT" brings it all together in a simple book, conveying the excitement of video games through the visual arts.

-Eddie Richmond


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