There’s often just too damn much to do and see at PAX Prime. Regardless of what you choose to do on any given night, you’re sure to miss out on something awesome that happened at another party or event.
Fortunately, there’s one show everyone is sure to love. Press Start, a first year art show curated and mostly organized by Valve artists Andrew Wilson and Eric Kirchmer, features mixed media art from over thirty renowned video game artists. The show opens on the opening day of PAX so I called up the curators and asked them to paint me a picture of what we can expect at the show. (PUNS!)
Both passionate artists outside the realm of video games, Wilson and Kirchmer wanted an opportunity to invite other like-minded industry artists to share each other’s works. Their close proximity to the PAX (Valve is located less than 15 miles away from the Washington State Convention Center) allowed them the perfect opportunity to bring artists and gamers together to enjoy fine art.
The last facet of this perfect storm is the Seattle-based Ltd. Art Gallery, which is situated less than five blocks away from PAX. The gallery has only been open for nine months, and as Wilson expressed, “It’s really cool to be able to support a gallery in your home city.” Wilson, a sucker for small art galleries told me that Ltd. presented a perfect opportunity for him to mesh his interests in video game art and traditional art.
Though getting video game artists involved in an art show is more difficult than it may sound. “Some guys are leery to accept deadlines when they already have projects they’re working on,” Kirchmer revealed. Finding not only talented artists, but artists that weren’t currently bogged down in their current production cycle presented a unique challenge. Luckily, as Wilson told me, video game artists are often fans of traditional media, so the desire was there. Indeed, it’s fair to think that most video game artists started out doodling other things.
Kirchmer’s art interests sound more at home with a Renaissance artist than a veteran video game artist. “In my free time I do a lot of figurative sculptures and oil paintings,” he told me; one of his oil paintings will be featured in the gallery. He was wary to reveal the piece, but hinted that it would have the “look and feel” of Team Fortress 2, which he worked on extensively. Wilson paints as well, and is currently working on his feature (a digital piece) for the gallery, which as he put it is “my take on the Birth of Venus. I’m marrying that with some Nintendo content.” I’ve always said Botticelli needed more plumbers.
But Wilson and Kirchmer’s pieces are just a very small fraction of what will be displayed in the gallery. Calling upon both friends in the industry and artists whose work they admire has assured the gallery will include a litany of talent from around the world. One of these artists Kirchmer is really excited to see is Harmonix senior artist Mitch Fletcher. Kirchmer described Fletcher’s unique art as “disgustingly amazing,” and went on to say, “I’m hoping he comes with something to melt my face off again.”
Wilson mentioned that he is terribly excited to see Rockstar Games artist Daren Bader. Bader worked on Red Dead Redemption, among a long list of other Rockstar titles and will be displaying oil paintings at Press Start. “It’s going to be cool for other people to see his oils in person,” Wilson told me, “because he paints in this timeless fashion that feels really classic and well-rehearsed.”
The list goes on, but Wilson and Kirchmer made it clear that they are excited for every artist on display. Wilson said that he’s delighted to be surrounded by so many inspirational artists and Kirchmer stated simply that, “a lot of people are just peers in the industry that we look up to or people who we admire their work.”
The gallery opens at 7:00 p.m. on the same Friday as PAX. The team behind Press Start is getting the word out through social media, including a Google+ Event where you can chat with some of the artists. Organizers hope that among the 40,000 attendees, more than a few gamers will find their way to the show. The gallery will remain on display until September 26, so for anyone who can’t make it during PAX, there is plenty of time after the show to get your fill.
Wilson and Kirchmer hope that the show will gain enough popularity to hopefully become an annual event. “I think in the future it would be cool to get more and more gamers from different companies,” Kirchmer said in regards to potential future shows. He continued that if this initial show were successful, he hopes there would be more interest in contributing.
Though only time will tell how successful Press Start’s first year will be, I’m hopeful that more than a couple PAX attendees will break away from the booze-laden parties to grab some culture—if only for a minute. After checking out the artist list, it would be a damn shame to miss out on any of the works displayed in the gallery. As Kirchmer put it, “I’m excited to see what those guys can do.”
Nationally unacclaimed freelance writer Jonathan Deesing is only here for the BioShock art. If you can't get enough of his musings, check out his Twitter feed.