‘Artcade Classics’ exhibition at Image Gallery

Cartridge world! Painters reimagine classic video games on canvas

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It’s no two-bit idea — more like eight bits!

A bunch of artists are putting classic video games on canvas for an exhibition called “Artcade Classics,” which opens April 10 at Bushwick’s Image Gallery. The show is celebrating Game Over for winter and a new life for spring, organizers said.

“We decided that we wanted to do something to kick off the spring that could resonate with a lot of people — that brought them back to their childhood,” said co-curator Steven Gonzalez. “Ultimately, we decided on video games, because it would be very pop art and we wanted those bright colors for the spring.”

Gonzalez and partner Che Morales approached 20 artists to paint their versions of characters from classics including “Super Mario Brothers,” “Street Fighter,” and the ground-breaking “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” All the painters were turbocharged about the idea, Gonzalez said.

“We did not get a single no,” he said.

Organizers said they recognize the irony of celebrating spring with the pastime of pasty basement-dwellers, but they’re embracing fond childhood memories of ignoring their parents’ pleas to go outside and play in the sun.

“When we were kids we didn’t want to put the controller down to go outside even when the weather was nice — the goal is bringing that nostalgia back,” Gonzalez said.

Many painters first picked Mario as their paint-able character for the show, but the curators urged them to select some of the franchise’s more esoteric sprites. One artist opted to put his own spin on the “Little Shop of Horrors”-esque plants that plague the portly plumber, adding eyes to make them appear more sinister.

“It’s a more vicious venus fly trap,” said artist Maximilian Mueller. “They don’t have eyes in the game, but I paint a lot of flowers with these crying eyes, so I added my style.”

And show-goers can also test their hand at some arcade classics — without the classic problems of sticky buttons or losing all their quarters. Organizers are bringing “Pac-Man” and “Space Invaders” on iPads and setting up the tablet computers in old arcade machines to give the games more of a retro feel, Gonzalez said.

Despite the name, not all the artists are from the quarter-dropping generation. Mueller said he first played Mario on a Nintendo 64, which came out in 1996 when arcades were already on their last lives. Still, he said he is more comfortable around a paintbrush than a joystick.

“I’d like to say that I definitely played a lot outside — I was never really a full-on gamer,” Mueller said. “But Mario probably has the most recognizable characters of any game.”

“Artcade Classics” exhibition opening at Image Gallery [1501 Broadway between Jefferson and Cornelia streets in Bushwick,, (718) 439-4807]. April 10 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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