The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center's Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, 2 West 13th Street, The New School, Sep 2016

An exhibition exploring the work of artists who borrow from play and games to expose social, philosophical, and cultural issues. From playground antics to mathematical strategy, the artists in Free Play mine the significance of games, reinventing them to create experiences that often involve the viewer and reflect on the nature of participation in art and art exhibitions.

The exhibition features an arcade of objects, including a version of Guitar Hero by Cory Arcangel, hopscotch by Mary Flanagan, and for the more mystically inclined, a divining game by Allan McCollum and Matt Mullican. Other artists featured in Free Play are Yoko Ono, Ryan Gander, Patrick Bernier and Olive Martin, Ruth Catlow, Futurefarmers, Jeanne van Heeswijk and Rolf Engelen, Paul Noble, Pedro Reyes, Jason Rohrer, David Shrigley, and Erik Svedäng.

“Free Play brings out the inner child in all of us," said Melissa E. Feldman, curator of Free Play. "It also brings out the agitator, the free thinker, and the rule breaker, all starting with the encouragement to actually handle the art!"

Feldman noted that strategies tied to game playing have historically attracted avant-garde artists, most famously the chess master Marcel Duchamp. His every artistic move had his chess partner in mind: the viewer. Games were also intrinsic to the work of war-addled Surrealists and Dadaists—the inventors of the exquisite corpse and automatic drawing—in their quest to upend the bourgeois pretensions of art and free the artistic imagination. In the 1960s and 1970s, the countercultural and anti-war Fluxus group and the New Games Foundation questioned capitalism and corporate culture by staging massive non-competitive games in city parks.

“It’s an open invitation.” said Radhika Subramaniam, Director/Chief Curator of the SJDC. “Come and play!”

Free Play is an exhibition curated by Melissa E. Feldman and organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. Free Play was made possible, in part, by grants from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and with the generous support from ICI’s International Forum and Board of Trustees.

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