Akron Art Museum "Last Look Tour: 'Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art'"

Blog Date
Julie Smith
Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

Video Games As Contemporary Art
While video games don't typically cover museum walls, the influence of gaming on artists is
on view in "Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art" at the Akron Art Museum.

Video and more in IDEASTREAM article: Video Games Star In Akron Art Museum Exhibit

Stuart had attended the Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art exhibition with our son, Mike, on October 26, 2019. What made their visit to the exhibition extra special was was learning special insights about the artwork from Curator of Exhibitions Theresa Bembnister (@tbembnister).

You can learn about how Theresa Bembnister developed the idea for this exhibition fifteen years ago in the video Video Games As Contemporary Art that we embedded above. You can also see Stuart's photos and videos in his @sos_jr tweets from his visit last October in his blog post:

After the October 2019 tour, Stuart knew he needed to return to the Akron Art Museum (@AkronArtMuseum) to share his experience with his wife and co-blogger, Julie. As we entered 2020, we made plans to go in late January.



How Exciting! We have "Last Look Tour" Tickets!

Thank you, @AkronArtMuseum, for information about "Last Look Tour: Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art!" We have our tickets!
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We were excited to learn via a Twitter direct message from @AkronArtMuseum that now not only would we be able to see the exhibition together, but we would also be able to go on a "final tour" with Theresa Bembnister, on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. The exhibition is great, but seeing it with the curator who developed the show is extra special.



Video: Open World Akron Art Museum - Arcade Edition

Open World Akron Art Museum - Arcade Edition
Check out 2019 Open World Akron Art Museum.
They have many events coming up.
So make sure you check out the upcoming events. Especially if you love art.



Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art

Here is the official description of the exhibition from the Akron Art Museum which we want to include here, since it provides background about the show, along with a list of the artists and supporters. It also includes the announcement that the exhibition will travel later this year to two other cities.

October 19, 2019 - February 2, 2020
Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries

According to a 2018 Entertainment Software Association survey, more than 166 million Americans play video games. Visual artists are gamers too, yet video games are rarely examined as a major influence on contemporary art. Open World draws attention to this phenomenon through the presentation of artworks including painting, sculpture, textiles, prints, drawings, animation, video games, video game modifications and game-based performances and interventions by makers who self-identify as artists.

The artworks in Open World reference a broad cross-section of games, ranging from early text adventure and arcade games to modern massively multi-player online roleplaying games and first-person shooters. Participating artists are influenced by some of the most beloved video game franchises including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, The Sims and Final Fantasy.

The exhibition’s title refers to open-world video games, which allow a player to roam through a virtual world, freely selecting their objectives. The title also draws attention to the rich opportunities video games offer for creative expression. Through games, artists build immersive, alternate words. They use digital games to create meaning through imagery, music, sound effects, animation and narrative. The rules governing the experience of playing a video game can express a viewpoint and encourage critical thinking or empathy by directing the player’s attention to systems at work within the real world.

The artists participating in Open World include: Ueli Alder (Hemberg, Switzerland), Cory Arcangel (New York), Alan Butler (Dublin), JooYoung Choi (Houston), Joseph DeLappe (Dundee, Scotland), Krista Hoefle (South Bend, IN), Invader (Paris), Butt Johnson (New York), Angelo Ray Martínez (South Bend, IN), Michael Menchaca (San Antonio), Feng Mengbo (Beijing), Joan Pamboukes (New York), Oliver Payne (Los Angeles), Tim Portlock (St. Louis), Tabor Robak (New York), Rachel Rossin (New York), Jacolby Satterwhite (New York), Skawennati (Montreal), Suzanne Treister (London), Nathan Vincent (Los Angeles), Bill Viola (Long Beach, CA) and USC Game Innovation Lab (Los Angeles), Angela Washko (Pittsburgh) and Mathew Zefeldt (Minneapolis).

Skinsuits, a virtual reality experience by Rachel Rossin, is open 12-8 pm Thursdays and 12-5 Saturdays and Sundays. ****Skinsuits will be in demonstration mode (non-interactive) on Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22.****

Currier Museum of Art • March 21 – June 28, 2020
San José Museum of Art • September 10, 2020 – January 10, 2021

Bembnister edited a 96-page, hardbound, full-color, fully illustrated catalog to accompany Open World. The catalog features essays by Theresa Bembnister as well video game historian Andrew Williams and feminist game scholar Samantha Blackmon. It is available for purchase ($30) in the museum shop.

Open World Arcade

As part of Open World, the Akron Art Museum will present a day-long juried arcade of indie video games and table top games from developers, students and game-creators. Open World Arcade will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2019, 11 am – 5 pm. Games presented in the arcade are judged by a panel of museum staff and video game professionals based on novelty, professional polish, aesthetics, quality of game experience and “wow factor.” 

Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, The Tom and Marilyn Merryweather Fund, the Akron Community Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by GOJO Industries. Media Sponsorship is provided by Western Reserve PBS.



January 28, 2020 - Last Look Tour: Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art

Catch the works of Open World before the exhibition closes! Join Curator of Exhibitions Theresa Bembnister to learn how some of the most beloved video game franchises Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and The Sims, among others inspire the artists in Open World.

Complimentary admission for members, $12/nonmembers

Not a member? Join today!

Thank you to curator Theresa Bembnister (@tbembnister) for the tour. We learned a lot that helped us appreciate the artwork on a deeper level.



Next Exhibition Coming February 29th - Elias Sime: Tightrope

Elias Sime: Tightrope
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After the tour, we learned from Theresa Bembnister and Senior Development Officer Jeneé Garlando that the next exhibition at the Akron Art Museum would also have a connection to technology -- the artwork would be created from computer parts:

Elias Sime: Tightrope
February 29, 2020 - May 24, 2020

From afar, these works give the appearance of abstract paintings. However, upon closer inspection, one sees these color-block compositions are assembled from unexpected materials like motherboards, buttons and electrical wire. First conceiving of a composition, Sime then sources the items to realize his concept, often purchasing them new or utilizing materials he has collected. In some cases, it takes him years to finish a work because he must locate a sufficient quantity of a specific material to complete a composition.





Afternoon: Exploring More of Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art

Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art
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After taking a break for lunch, we returned to the museum for a closer look at the video game-related artwork. There are a lot of details in this art that are best seen with fresh eyes.


The Distance of the Moon

The Distance of the Moon
November 9, 2019 - March 15, 2020
Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery

In 1969, the astronauts aboard Apollo 11 made history by becoming the first people to set foot on the moon. Unbeknownst to them, this year also marked the arrival of the first works of art to the lunar surface—The Moon Museum. Covertly orchestrated by members of the group Experiments in Art and Technology, a miniscule ceramic tile bearing reproductions of artworks by six artists was snuck onto the lander. A rare original tile, featuring work by Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Forrest Myers, David Novros and John Chamberlain, will be on view in The Distance of the Moon.

After viewing Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art, we saw the other current special exhibition -- The Distance of the Moon. We enjoyed seeing:

This exhibition continues through March 15, 2020, so we recommend you go and see it before it is gone.



Akron Art Museum Galleries

As we were exploring the other galleries in the museum, Senior Development Officer Jeneé Garlando came to the galleries to talk to us some more.  We are grateful for her taking time to tell us more about the Akron Art Museum (@AkronArtMuseum) and its galleries.

On the Akron Art Museum's collection web page, you can learn about their over 5,000 art objects at: AkronArtMuseum.org/Collection/



@Tine_Rass Visiting the Open World Exhibition at Akron Art Museum

The same day we visited the Akron Art Museum, we saw that Tine Rassalle (@Tine_Rass), an archaeologist and video gamer from North Carolina, shared photos on Twitter of her visit to the Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art exhibition:



More Replies from the @HOLZERTRON Bot


the works of Jenny Holzer, one tweet at a time not affiliated w/Jenny Holzer a bot by @aphex intended to aid her mission to display these in public spaces



What Others Say

Here are some articles where you can learn more about the Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art exhibition:



Related Blog Posts

Here are other blog posts we have written about the Akron Art Museum:

We have written many more blog posts about art venues, which you can see by clicking here.

Click here to read all our blog posts about events we have written about in the Akron area.



Thank you, Akron Art Museum

We had a great day at the Akron Art Museum, and want to again thank Theresa Bembnister (@tbembnister) for the tour, and Jeneé Garlando for taking time to tell us more about the museum. We look forward to attending future exhibitions at the museum.