In The Modern's latest FOCUS exhibition, Ben Jones takes the term "mixed media" as literally as possible, creating pieces that utilize wood, canvas, and video projections (along with his trademark affinity for animation and comic book illustration).
When describing Jones' pieces, many different adjectives come to mind. "Psychedelic" could best describe his video paintings, which are incredibly entertaining to watch. Bright neon colors are projected onto multiple canvases, which have been painted with various lines and shapes to help provide a focal point for the constantly-shifting projection.
But the term "nostalgic" could also apply to Jones' pieces, as their pixelated style, fluorescent hues, and sharp lines harken back to older forms of multimedia: In particular, they incorporate stylistic elements of video games from the original Atari or Nintendo gaming systems, and also visually reflect Nickelodeon-style cartoons. The FOCUS exhibition also includes two-dimensional ladders which nonetheless look like they're 3D (trompe l'oeil, anyone?), a bench that looks like a dog (one of Jones' reccurring characters), and not too surprisingly…Gumby.
This visual bombardment of multimedia mash-ups is to be expected from Jones, who is one of the members of Paper Rad, a Pennsylvania / Rhode Island-based art collective whose collaboration with Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Movie, is one of those art pieces that always cheers me up when I'm having an off day…it's a nice reminder that at least my world isn't, quite literally, falling apart. The movie was created by "hacking" into a Nintendo Game cartridge and re-arranging scenery and scenarios until they eventually lead to Mario's having an existential meltdown, and it's a prime example of how contemporary artists can use older forms of pop cultural entertainment and recycle it into something new.
This makes an interesting contribution to a question that is circulating the Art World, which is being perpetuated by discussion from Roger Ebert: can video games be art? Ebert says no. Clive Barker and Sir Ben Kingsley (currently starring in the video-game-turned-movie Prince of Persia) say yes.
What is your take on this discussion? Can video games be art? How do you feel about Jones' multi-media pieces? Post your answers in our "comments" section, on Facebook, or even Tweet them to us! (themodernfw)
FOCUS: Ben Jones is on-view in The Modern's galleries until June 6.