Most fine art exhibitions require the viewer to have a good amount of art history knowledge to fully enjoy the show; for Cory Arcangel’s solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art it helps to have a knowledge of video games, YouTube, and shopping. Arcangel first gained notoriety for hacking video games, for example, removing everything but the clouds from Nintendo’s first Super Mario Brothers game. So it is fitting that the first piece you see and hear upon entering the exhibition consists of six versions of bowling video games, all playing simultaneously. Total cacophony. Each game has been hacked so that the automated player only bowls strikes—no pins are knocked down, ever. The player is a perpetual loser.
Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat the Champ), 2011
My favorite piece was another loud one, a video montage that re-creates every note of Paganini’s Caprice No. 5 with YouTube samples of people playing heavy metal guitar. Hilarious! Despite the look of low-fidelity video that defines YouTube, it looked grand on a projection that took up one 10ft-by-18ft (3m-by-5.5m) wall of a darkened room. Like the bowling game piece, this video also features automation; it was created using Arcangel’s custom software Gould Pro, which allows him to produce a mix much faster than the tedious cut, copy, paste of hundreds of samples.
Paganini Caprice No.5, 2011
After all that noise I gave my ears a rest by gazing at the serene Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations, large chromogenic prints of Photoshop’s default gradients. The title of each work includes instructions for how to make it yourself: the middle print seen below is Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient “Spectrum,” mousedown y=25100 x=0, mouseup y=0 x=19750. We could make such prints at home and hang our very own Arcangel piece on the wall.
What is the artist trying to say with works like the Gradients and the YouTube mixes—are we all creators? Is creation mundane? Ponder that over a glass of wine at the museum’s new restaurant Untitled, part of Danny Meyer’s restaurant empire. Standard American comfort food of all-day breakfast dishes, soups, salads, and sandwiches but tastier and prepared from fresh, local ingredients. On weekend nights there is a more elgant three-course menu ($46 US).
Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools
Date: May 26 – September 11, 2011
Place: Whitney Musuem of American Art
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 18:00 (Friday 13:00 – 21:00)
Closed on Monday and Tuesday
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Tel: (212) 570-3600