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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Iam8bit 10th Anniversary: Ten Years and A New Store

E3 had just ended. Gamers, developers and the various sort of media that cover it all needed to tell their friends and fans about what to play and what to look forward to. Before they could, they had to pay their respects to a certain gallery, that or at least get some free booze. One place to get such free booze (they card) was at the iam8bit 10th Anniversary. Ten years of amazing events and art shows with the largest show at the gallery ever on Thursday night. Mega Man, Mario and Donkey Kong were on the walls. Super Mario World was being played on projection...with a coffee table? The DJ was cranking out beats, people were noshing upstairs and every few feet couples were staring at an angry gorilla wearing a tie and kissing.

 Iam8bit 10th Anniversary Photo Gallery

This love of video games and art comes from a source. "It's pretty amazing. We framed all the fliers from the last; so it's been ten years since, but we've done seven iam8bit shows, but it's been interesting looking back and seeing where the artists have gone, " that's Jon M. Gibson, Co-Founder of Iam8bit. "There's a lot of people that have broke out and have become rather famous, 'A lot of them have died," that's Jon M. Gibson again, the cynical note at the end was of course from yours truly.

Just to make it clear, I'm unsure if any actual Iam8bit artist is in fact dead.

If you've been following this site for a while you must have heard of iam8bit. They have their own tag and we've been following them since the inception of the site, back when their video game art shows were in April at a defunct Gallery 1988 location. Now they have their own gallery and office on Sunset. Finally with air conditioning! Jon tells me a comment from Yelp finally pushed them to put it in at great expense, "This is a great gallery, it's a wonderful space. They do great shows. However, it's very sweaty in the summer," Jon quoting the comment by memory.

Jon was being praised throughout our interview, it was hard to grab him for a second without someone giving him a handshake or grabbing him by the shoulder. With a gallery devoted to ten years of his life it would be hard to finish talking to him that evening as praise sprang from everywhere.
Charles Lushear crouching (R)

Jon tell me, "It's the biggest show we've done. It's the most artists we've had. It's in fact too many artists. We can barely fit them on the walls."

One of those artists was Charles Lushear. I met Charles years ago at Dwell on Design where he was selling some dream gamer furniture. At the show he was showing a piece that was on the floor and controlled Super Mario and Yoshi. He built a working Super NES controller, that took two people to play, out of wood. "Super NES is my favorite console, " Lushear tells me, after saying it's been on his mind for three years to make his piece. I ask him if he's going to have a sexy calendar of himself on the table, to which he jokes, only for me, but brings up how much he loves the design of the controller and its curves. I tell him, "You just want people to get busy, " to fit in my line of oversexualizing his work that night. "I want people to have fun, remember memories and their childhood and just have a good time, " he quickly states.  Thinking about it, you would need the the table to be much bigger to fool around on. Made of walnut, the piece costs $7,000 and works via USB, so any computer with emulation software is ready. Non-functioning; $5,500. The original at the opening took three months, but now would take Charles six weeks to complete. Not that bad for furniture you can play.

And many guests did stop and play it after they walked and talked through Jon's gallery. I ask about his favorite pieces from over the years. He brings up Jason Torchinky's giant workable Atari controller. "That was kind of an elevation movement where we realized part of it wasn't just about the art on the walls, but the evening and tangibility of it. So we strive to have something that's tactile in everything we do..., " Jon said.

We reminisce about past shows, slime and Scrooge's Money bin. "Companies will hire us to do stuff around the world and we get to build out these weird, integrated, strange, in-universe things," Jon ponders as he tells me about iam8bit. All from being a creative production company, which means they almost do everything.

With no prodding on my part Jon suddenly said, "I would like to thank Amanda White, who saved my butt a bazillion times and made this company and legitimate business."

With ten years behind it now, what of Iam8bit's future, perhaps some sort of rocket skates? No,  as informed by Jon about PWN Shop (a play on pawn shop and getting pwned) and that Jason Torchinsky, maker of working giant controllers, will have pieces debuting in. "We're opening a shop that's con-joined with Button Mash, the new arcade bar/restaurant opening up in Echo Park. Starry Kitchen is doing the food. "PWN Shop will be a total gamer lifestyle store, " Jon says. "We're going to have a really awesome neon sign for the spot, " Jon continued, excited about the store. Look for it to open this summer.

So there you have it, a place to buy gamer threads and with so many t-shirts given out at events from Iam8bit they more than likely will have some nice styles ready.

On behalf of Things To Do In LA, we congratulate Iam8bit on it's ten years of art shows, events and so many other achievements that have let the people of LA and further get excited about. From connecting video games to the art world to pulling off video game events that have been just top notch, we salute you.

 iam8bit, 2147 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. Show runs now through July 5. Gallery hours: Thursdays, 3pm to 9pm; Fridays, 3pm to 9pm; Saturdays, 1pm to 10pm; Sundays, 12pm to 6pm

Gabe Swarr, one of the artists of the show, could not be reached for comment, because he goes to bed at nine.