Cory Arcangel’s name is inextricably attached to the art of the internet and digital technology. He didn’t invent it, but as his upcoming solo show at the Whitney attests, he is its great popularizer. If YouTube cat videos now seems like a natural artistic medium and The Art of Video Games seems like a natural choice for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Arcangel had something to do with it.
Arcangel was one of the first to work with hacked video game cartridges, his masterpiece being Super Mario Clouds, a Super Mario cartridge wiped clean of everything but its slowly drifting, pixelated clouds. The graphics are widely recognizable, layered with nostalgia and belated aesthetic appreciation. His prolific output of web projects, sculptures, photographic prints, and installations celebrates the aesthetic possibilities of recently outmoded technology, even positing a “sublime” of old video game graphics and web layouts. A piece recently at the Barbican and in the upcoming Whitney exhibition lines up the entire history of bowling video games, all modified to bowl endless gutterballs.
The portfolio section of Arcangel’s website jumbles together his exhibitions with projects like Sorry I Haven’t Posted, a blog compiling blog posts apologizing for not posting, Twitter searches, and a blog that automatically compiles all the New Yorker “Caption This Cartoon” contests, adding the caption “What a misunderstanding!” At his least successful, Arcangel’s cultivated insouciance degenerates into a weakness for easy one-liners that rely on the technology itself as the punchline. Nonetheless, he has been one of the most successful at mixing online projects with installations destined for galleries and museums.