How is art valued? What criteria make an artwork more worthwhile than another? There’s no objective answer, but certain mediums have long held more respect than others, especially in the eyes of the art-world old guards. Painting, for example, has long been a revered medium, while newer formats, such as pixel art, have long struggled to find a place.
For many of today’s young adults, pixel art has a certain degree of nostalgia, of familiarity, bringing them back to simpler times when they’re hunched in front of their TV with a Nintendo controller in hand. But aside from the nostalgia factor, there are undeniable artistic merits to the medium. Thanks to the introduction of video games into The Musem of Modern Art in the past decade, perceptions are slowly changing. Pixel art classics, such as Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros, and more are now part of the growing collection. With this recognition from a renowned institute, more artists and curators have become more comfortable in accepting pixel art. South Korean artist Joo Jaebum believes this is a cause for celebration.
对于许多年轻人来说，像素带给人某种怀旧且熟悉的感受，会让他们想起拿着任天堂游戏手柄，坐在电视机玩游戏的时代。但抛开怀旧之情，这种媒介也有着不可否认的艺术价值。过去十年，随着纽约现代艺术博物馆 (The Museum of Modern Art) 将电子游戏纳入馆藏，人们对其看法也在慢慢改变，现在《太空侵略者》、《超级马里奥兄弟》和更多经典像素作品已被纳入永久收藏。这些知名机构的认可也让像素艺术被越来越多艺术家和策展人接纳。在韩国艺术家 Joo Jaebum 看来，这是值得庆祝的事情。
At the same time, Joo finds the lag in pixel art’s acceptance by the art world to be slightly disappointing, as he has long seen the virtues of the medium. “It’s typically associated with computer graphics or digital media, and not really considered as ‘art,'” he says. “I suppose it just takes time for people to adapt, but its reputation is changing.”
In hoping that pixel art can receive more recognition, he produced Masterpieces—a series that reimagines classic artworks in his signature 8-bit style. In it, he pays homage to art-world greats across the generations, with recreations of pieces from artists that include Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and more. In his recreation of Pollock’s The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle, he reproduces the color palette, curving figure, and abstract patterns of the original painting. In his reproduction of Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe, he captures the painter’s despondent expression, including even the wisps of smoke trailing from his pipe. Despite the lack of resolution and scaled-down format, the works are immediately recognizable for those who’ve seen the original.
为了让像素艺术能够得到更多认可，他创作了《Masterpieces》（大师杰作）系列，用他标志性的 8-bit 像素风格，重新演绎经典的艺术作品。这些作品致敬了跨越数代的艺术巨匠，重现了杰克逊·波洛克 (Jackson Pollock)、梵高 (Van Gogh)、安迪·沃霍尔 (Andy Warhol) 等艺术大师的杰作。在创作波洛克的作品《月亮女人切割圆》(Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle) 时，他延续了原作的色调、弧形线条和抽象图案；而在梵高的《耳缠绷带的自画像》(Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear) 中，他成功捕捉了这名画家精神涣散且消沉的姿态，甚至还细致地雕摹出画里烟斗飘出的缕缕烟雾。尽管分辨率很低，而且画幅缩小了，但观众仍然能一眼识出这些作品对应的原作。
Many of the artists featured in Masterpieces also appear in Atelier, which doesn’t spotlight the artworks they’re known for but rather their studio spaces and working conditions. The series includes the bedroom that Van Gogh painted out of in Arles, Andy Warhol’s New York studio, and Johannes Vermeer’s workshop. These spaces are simplified to isometric squares, with pixelated versions of the respective artists themselves appearing within the scene. “I majored in animation and have long loved manga and anime, but art history is out of my depth,” Joo admits. “I only recently became interested, so I studied up on famous paintings and classic artists. I’m still learning.”
《Masterpieces》系列中借鉴的许多艺术大师也出现在他的另一个作品系列《Atelier》（画室）中。该系列中，Jaebum 画出了艺术家们昔日的工作室和创作环境，包括梵高在阿尔勒的卧室、安迪·沃霍尔在纽约的工作室和维米尔 (Johannes Vermeer) 的艺术作坊。他将这些空间创作成伪 3D 像素游戏室内场景，艺术家们也被画了进去。Jaebum 表示：“我大学主修的是动画专业，一直都很喜欢漫画和动画，但不太了解艺术史。最近我才开始对艺术史感兴趣，研究过程中知晓了一些名画和古典艺术家，现在还在不断学习中。”
Though these fine-art homages have been incredibly fun, Joo also enjoys intersecting other creative disciplines with his pixel art. He’s invaded fashion spots made by video artist Danilo Lauria for Maison Valentino with his pixel characters. In one, the original model dances around their digital doppelganger, while in another, the model walks out from behind her pixel avatar and snaps a selfie.
In a separate series, Joo reimagines the outfits of several fashion icons on Street Fighter characters: Guile is dressed in a Kanye West outfit, with a bomber jacket atop a black hoodie and Yeezy combat boots, Dhalism is sporting Pharell’s signature buffalo hat with cuffed jeans and a striped henley, while Chun Li rocks an oversized Supreme x Champion t-shirt à la Adrianna Ho.
同时，Jaebum 通常还会与时尚等行业进行跨界合作。他曾经给时装品牌 Valentino 创作了一系列像素模特，再让真人模特围着各自的“数字分身”随之舞蹈；在另一个系列中，他令经典街机游戏《街头霸王》中的角色变身时尚偶像：凯尔 (Guile) 身着 Kanye West 的服装，以黑色连帽衫外搭配飞行员夹克，脚踩 Yeezy 训练靴；达尔西姆 (Dhalsim) 头顶菲董标志性礼帽、身着翻边牛仔裤和条纹亨利衫；春丽 (Chun-Li ) 则穿上了超大号的 Supreme x Champion T 恤，这分明是在效仿潮流网红 Adrianna Ho。
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As multiple commercial collaborations and even an exhibition of Joo’s art prove, people are beginning to take pixel art more seriously. Even more recently, with the hype around NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), artworks that only exist in a digital format, such as Joo’s pixel creations, are also gaining further legitimacy. By being minted as an NFT, a digital creation can be limited in edition, similar to physical works. “With digital art, there’s a lot of limitations in how they can be displayed people,” he says. “But with the rise of NFT, it’s a brand new environment for artists. As the technology evolves, I’ll be interested to see how my work can be presented in different and interesting ways.”
A collection of Joo’s animated pixel art is now available for purchase on Foundation, a platform built on the Ethereum blockchain.
从越来越多的商业合作到 Jaebum 举办的展览，无一不在表明，人们正越来越重视像素艺术。最近，在 NFT（非同质化代币）的热潮下，像 Jaebum 的像素作品这些以数字格式存在的艺术作品也将获得更广泛的认可。通过 NFT，数字作品也可以像实体作品一样推出限量版本。他说：“数字艺术的展示方式存在很多限制。但随着 NFT 的兴起，艺术家将迎来一个全新的环境。随着技术发展，我很期待以更多有趣的方式来呈现我的作品。”
Jaebum 的一系列动画化像素作品现已在 Foundation 上发售。Foundation 是一个建立在以太坊区块链上的平台。