Pixelated: Sculpture by Mike Whiting
It’s rare that an exhibit can remind you of childhood hours spent playing video games in arcades as well as call to mind works by modern artists in great museums. Pixelated: Sculpture by Mike Whiting, now on view at Denver Botanic Gardens, does just that. Drawing on the blocky 8-bit aesthetic of vintage video games like “Pac-Man” and “Space Invaders,” Whiting’s sculptures evoke a sense of nostalgia for the games of the classic arcade era. At the same time, the clean lines and intentionally limited detail recall iconic minimalist artists like Donald Judd.
Although minimalism and video games may seem like strange bedfellows, Mike Whiting is the rare artist who is able to successfully blend seemingly unrelated aesthetic ideas in a way that offers new insight into both. In fact, the two are born out of two opposing ideas--the simplified graphics in early video games were largely a function of technological limitations, while the minimalist art movement created artworks that had detail purposely removed. Although one approach seeks to add detail while the other works to remove it, both ultimately result in strikingly similar angular, simplified forms, an intersection that Whiting draws upon to create works that are at once familiar and surprising.
Set within the lush natural spaces of the Gardens, Whiting’s sculptures are also a witty complement to garden landscapes that are simultaneously natural and artificial. Depicting natural subjects like plants and animals in a style that references the world of technology and artifice, Whiting’s works explore the space between what is natural and what is constructed. Whiting’s sculptures are appealing whether you feel more at home in a gallery, a garden or an arcade – Pixelated is an exhibition not to be missed. Pixelated: Sculpture by Mike Whiting is on view at Denver Botanic Gardens through September 23.