I Am 8-Bit

    (Chronicle Books, 2006)
™ and © Chronicle Books

How much one likes this book probably depends on how much one loves 1980s videogames. Or on how “artsy” one is. It’s a weird collection.

The art here is varied: oils, acrylics, photos, mixed media, and hand grenades. Some of it is good. Most of it is odd. A few pieces are downright disturbing. Donkey Kong and Mario appear to be the patron saints of I Am 8-Bit, with Pac-Man and Q*bert coming up right behind them. Everything else from Asteroids to Tron gets a nod, but what does it all mean? Any message is elusive. (The medium must be the message!)

What are we to make of Nathan Cartwright’s “The Passion of the Kong” with Mario as Pilate? Or of Mario and Kong sharing a beer in Bob Dob’s “Cheers”? Jason Sho Green’s “Putting the Super in Mario” is a cute cartoon, but what makes it “art” more than any other one-panel gag? And is Pac-Man “Playing the Nuclear Option” in Dennis Larkins’ piece a political comment? If so, what?

Definitely an acquired taste.

— Jack Abramowitz

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 Jon M. Gibson