Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Basic Concept:
My card game is a playful take on two opposing schools of art criticism. I'm an art history major, and many of my classes in past semesters and especially this semester discuss the tensions between different theories of aesthetics and art criticism. In particular, I had been thinking about distinctions between avant-garde and kitsch and modern and postmodern values. This game focuses in on avant-garde and kitsch, the separation (or lack thereof) between high and low culture in art and the opposing tendencies of representation and abstraction. I chose to focus on two schools of criticism, formalism and the theories associated with The Independent Group, that best represent the ideas of two opposing critics, Clement Greenberg and Lawrence Alloway. 

Just as I chose two different systems of art criticism, I chose ten well-known artworks by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, Willem de Kooning, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp, and Mark Rothko  to include in my game. In terms of traditional card games, the school of criticism functions like a suit (hearts, clubs, etc.) and the work of art functions somewhat like the numbers because they partially determine the value of the card. To create the face of the 4x6 card, I made a collage of all the works Picasa

Via the collage, I re-contextualized the works of art and tried to incorporate ideas about color and comoposition we discussed in class. I used the same collage technique for the back, although the aesthetic is very different. Every card has the wall of an art gallery on the reverse side, showing an empty bench with the artist's name in small letters, that artist's work hanging on the wall in the same gold frame on every card, and a label (either Independent Group or Formalism). 

There are twenty-one cards total, two each of all of the ten paintings- one for each critical theory, and one additional card. 

Rules of Play:

The objective of the game is to have the cards that add up to the highest number in value.
The game is for two players. 

1. The dealer gives each player five cards. 
2. Player 1 then pulls his two lowest-value cards and places them face-up on the card table. 
3. If Player 2 has a card with the same work of art as either card that is on the table, he must give it (or them, if he has the match to both cards on the table) to Player 1 and draw from the un-dealt cards to replace them. Player 1 then draws from the un-dealt cards to replace the cards he pulled out, if they are not first replaced by Player 2.
4. The players repeat the same steps, but the roles of Player 1 and Player 2 now reverse. 
5. Each player counts his total points, and whoever has the highest wins! 
These are the steps for one round of this game. The players may stop here or continue playing rounds indefinitely (e.g. "best out of three," "best out of five," etc.)

The additional "key" card is essential for determining the value of the cards, at least when you first play. 
This card has a normal face, but on the opposite side it has all of the artworks pictured twice, once under the column for the Independent Group "suit" and once under the column for the formalism "suit." On or near each work of art is a number that corresponds to its value in the game. Obviously, these differ according to the critical theory labeled on the card.  Admittedly, I assigned these values a bit arbitrarily based on my research and prior knowledge. I'd like to think this type of assignment of value adds to the commentary on art criticism and the playfulness of game in general. The basic idea is that Greenberg rejected Pop Art under his version of Formalism and saw art as evolving toward abstraction, whereas Alloway and The Independent Group embraced Pop Art and the melding of high and low culture. 

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