Hard to believe that it has been twenty five years since my addiction to the Street Fighter franchise began. I would rush out of high school then stop on the way home to pump quarters into the local Street Fighter II machine, which was found at a video store. The addiction would continue into Street Fighter II Champion Edition, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers and finally Super Street Fighter II Turbo. By the time the Alpha Series started to hit the streets in 1996, I was knee deep in finishing up my bachelor’s degree, so my addiction would start to subside, but not my love for the game. What is it about Street Fighter that has captured the minds of people all over the world? Unlike most games that truly enrapture people, it does not have a deep story line nor a particularly interesting world, just a series of exceptional individuals that beat the crap out of each other. I won’t try to speak for anyone else out there, but I can definitely tell you why I loved the game, competition. Street Fighter represented the very first game to me that truly gave people the unique head to head competition that people really wanted. This is the game that started the huge fighting game trend of the nineties, and the creating of fighting game tournaments all over the world. The game play was very well balanced, with the exceptions of a few well known glitches in the early days (Guile, I am looking at you). It was the perfect game at the perfect time and Capcom has done many things with the franchise over the years, but partnering with one of Hollywood’s many art collectors to celebrate this anniversary was a thing of beauty.
I was selected to attend the gallery’s opening night on Auguest 3rd at the iam8bit location on Sunset Blvd in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles because of my love of the franchise, so I was truly excited to head to the show and see what they had to offer. The storefront that iam8bit uses for their collections is a very small looking typical street level front, which worried me as I passed the long line that awaited outside the gallery a full two hours ahead of the public opening. It wasn’t until I got inside did I realize that the actual gallery stretches further back then expected, into a full 4500 sq. ft. show floor, which on opening nights iam8bit uses every foot. The opening night celebration would not only showcase the fifty or so pieces of art by various artists, but would also have a shop, a photo area that allowed you to pose in front of the opening backdrop to the original Street Fighter II, two open bars, a food truck serving poutine, a pinata replica of the car from the bonus round and a dj.
I was very impressed, especially once I heard a staff member talking on the phone and saying that they were expecting over a thousand people to come by tonight. It was at that moment I was glad they let the press in an hour early, because once the doors opened, I wasn’t going to get much work done, I was going to be busy enjoying the crowd and activities.
The actual collection is approximately fifty pieces from artists that were contacted through iam8bit to create various artworks. What I loved about this show is the difference in both media and style that these different artists brought to their work. I saw amazing glass paintings of Elena, giclee prints of Ken and Ryu in mid shoryuken, a woven tapestry done in side show style of Dhalsim, and my absolute personal favorite, a stitched two piece artwork of Dhalsim punching Ryu. It was obvious from the start which characters found their way into more pieces then others. Characters such as Zangief, Dhalsim, Ken, Ryu and Chun Li were found in more of the artwork, while characters such as Dee Jay, Elena, Juri, and to my surprise, M. Bison only found their way into a few artists’ eyes. The artists come from various backgrounds, but are all underground artists who truly have a love for both their media and Street Fighter. I loved Evanimal’s take on Zangief, Ryu and Chun Li, the Darrick Maasen tapestry of Dhalsim was fantastic, and I was ready to take home the two pieces by i love dust showing Ken and Ryu mid-shoryken.
Once the doors opened to the public, I quickly realized that this place draws a lot of attention and fans from all over the area. I think giving out free beer didn’t hurt the draw of the crowd either, and it was that moment that I pretty much stopped working.
The rest of the night seems more like a party then an art show opening, of course this being my first art show opening I have very little to compare it too. The place was absolutely packed with people who were having a blast. Many of the artists made appearances and a representative from Capcom was there at the show, and many of the attendees came in Street Fighter cosplay.
For those of you that live anywhere within the Los Angeles area, I recommend a drive to see this collection for it really is some of the best Street Fighter art that I have every seen. iam8bit’s gallery is located at 2147 Sunset Blved. The Street Fighter 25 Anniversary Collection will be on display until August 19th, and is open Thursday through Sunday in the afternoons.