New exhibit highlights the art of gaming

Video games aren’t usually considered works of art, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer. Some of the most creative, diverse characters have been spawned by the gaming industry. Before the beautiful graphics can ever be presented as stunning cinematic scenes on high definition televisions, artists must flesh out the concept drawings.

In collaboration with the Gnomon Gallery, Naughty Dog — the company that produced Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, 2009’s Spike Video Game Awards Game of the Year — has found a way to bring out some of its lesser seen artwork.

Out of this world · The new exhibit displays personal works from Naughty Dog employees including one of Judd Simatov’s 3-D character sculptures (top) and a print of Robh Ruppel’s “Steampunk Village.” - Photos courtesy of Bender/Helper Impact

Founded by Alex Alvarez, the Gnomon Gallery is set in the Television Center in Hollywood among the Gnomon School of Visual Effects and the Gnomon Workshop, a school that trains artists for work in the entertainment and design industry. Originally a creature effects artist, Alvarez founded the gallery as a way to draw attention to talented work.

Given Alvarez’s familiarity with people in the video game industry, he already knew how easily game designers’ efforts could be overlooked.

“People rarely focus on those who made the art [for a game]” Alvarez explained. Having done exhibits with work from Blizzard Entertainment in the past, the Gnomon Gallery was a perfect way to bring the creativity of Naughty Dog artists to light.

As an exhibit, the gallery has a definite impact on visitors. The limited-time exhibit boasts a live D.J., mood lighting and free wine, all of which complemented the various works stationed along the walls.

The gallery enjoyed heavy foot traffic on March 6, its opening night. Expecting nearly 300 guests, the management made sure to have plenty of Naughty Dog employees on hand.

“It’s about exposing people of extraordinary talent,” Alvarez said.

Most of the visitors who stopped by on the exhibit’s opening night were students and industry professionals. More than 75 Gnomon Workshop teachers could be seen examining the images as well.

There was a wide variety of artwork throughout the gallery ranging from computer-generated images to sculptures throughout the gallery. Some pieces sold for $250 or more.

Each piece seemed completely unlike the one next to it, even in instances when both were created by the same person. A few common themes were cityscapes, creatures and machines.

One picture, “Vultureman,” by Khanh Nguyen, featured a humanoid vulture with a long gun, metallic wings, goggles and an electronic wrist protector, reminiscent of Naughty Dog characters like Jak from the Jak and Daxter series.

There were also many works of photography, including a miniature Mountain Dew truck entitled “‘32 Ford,” by Christophe Desse.

Judd Simantov’s putty face sculptures by were comical, including a caricature of Sylvester Stallone with a huge chin and lower lip and one that resembled Obama, though it remained untitled.

Melissa Altobello’s “Home, Sweet Home” featured loosely attached housing networks among a red sky. What-if scenarios, like Altobello’s piece, were inspired by various earthquakes and tsunamis that have torn apart communities, the artist explained. Altobello said she did not stick to themes and preferred to do whatever came at the moment.

The art no doubt reflected a wide range of interests and experimental ideas.

Altobello graduated from the Gnomon Workshop and has been doing art for Naughty Dog for a year. She has been drawing since she was a child.

Because of her ties to Naughty Dog and the Gnomon Workshop, she was able to help organize the artists of the video gaming company into presenting their work at the gallery.

Collaboration is evident at Naughty Dog, especially among the artists.

“Everyone can make suggestions to the work, and everyone is encouraged to present ideas,” Altobello said. The company’s team members were very supportive, with programmers and designers present at the gallery too.

The diversity of the images and styles at the gallery was a clear display of the talent that helped bring about the unique aesthetics of Naughty Dog’s list of popular games.

“Great game art requires many sketches and lots of schooling,” Altobello said. She noted that her own skills have grown more technical over time.

Though there weren’t many sketches on display at the gallery to illustrate the progression from concept to completed work, it was clear that all the art had been well refined and polished.

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