ART & SCIENCE OF PINBALL EXHIBITION

We have reported on a number of pinball exhibitions in the past, but a new one has recent opened at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Northern California. Scott Horton tells us about it.

The science, engineering, design, whimsy and style covering nearly 200 years of the evolution of pinball will be featured in a new exhibition through September 24, 2017 at Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, CA.

The Art & Science of Pinball Exhibition
The Art & Science of Pinball Exhibition

Co-curated by Michael Schiess and Melissa Harmon of the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, The Art and Science of Pinball careens from bagatelle boards to the sophisticated contemporary machines.

Thirty-five pinball machines – the public can play all but two of them – are featured, from Parlor Bagatelle and Surf Queens, early flipperless games, all the way to the Hobbit from 2016. In addition, two see-through machine, models and diagrams that de-mystify and explain how the machines work and a full complement of public activities and programs will be presented through the exhibition run.

Thirty-three pinballs at the exhibition are available to play
Thirty-three pinballs at the exhibition are available to play

During the exhibition, Chabot Space & Science Center will be energized with the sounds of bells, buzzers and bumpers as pinball machines old and new fill the space and the public can enjoy an adrenaline rush learning about science in a completely new, interactive way. Pinball’s compelling mix of skill and chance together with increasingly ingenious and complex designs, engineering, science and art have made it enduringly popular for two centuries.

Some of the exhibits demonstrating the science of pinball
Some of the exhibits demonstrating the science of pinball

The Art and Science of Pinball unpacks the historical roots and the science and art behind the gravity-defying game using a selection of machines the public can actually play and learn about.

Score and credit reels explained
Score and credit reels explained

“Pinball is an amazing American art form, interactive kinetic art that is pay to play,” says exhibition co-curator Michael Schiess. “Its aesthetics are rooted in attraction and distraction as an attempt to remove coins from the pockets of what started out as a predominately male audience.  At first, the bright colors, flashing lights, bells, chimes and wild action of the ball zipping around the playfield brings an excitement to the player. Slowly, you realize the thing that enticed you to put a coin in and try your skill and luck is designed to distract and impede your abilities. But it does it in such a fun, entertaining way you don’t even care.”

Seeing how the game functions with the Visible Pinball
Seeing how the game functions with the Visible Pinball

Co-curator Melissa Harmon adds, “The Art and Science of Pinball tells stories on many levels.   Visitors view the fun and fantasy shown in the art, leading them to think creatively about the social situations at the time the machine was made.  They have a scientific vision of how pinball mechanisms evolved from pins in a board, and complexity grew over the last century. Then the visitor becomes a player and makes his or her own flashy combinations of silver ball magic!  The Chabot Space and Science Center is a great place for this exhibit, extending people’s imaginations from gaming into the final frontier, outer space.”

The exhibition runs until September 24th
The exhibition runs until September 24th

For information on the The Art and Science of Pinball exhibition visit www.chabotspace.org.

PINBALL ARTWORK EXHIBITION OPENS

The Skillshot, The Collaborative Art of Pinball exhibition

A new pinball exhibition, Skillshot, The Collaborative Art of Pinball opened in downtown Chicago on September 6th and runs through November 5th.

The exhibition is at the Glass Curtain Gallery inside the Columbia College building at 1104 S. Wabash. It is open daily and admission is free. Check their website for hours of operation.

Entrance to the Glass Curtain Gallery
The entrance to the Glass Curtain Gallery
Graphics for the exhibition
Graphics for the exhibition

The exhibition’s main focus is on the artwork created for pinball machines. Various playfield and backglass artworks are on display at the gallery.

A row of various playfields
A row of various playfields
A collection of backbox art
A collection of backbox art

The development of the artwork for some recent Stern Pinball titles is featured. Quite a bit of the artwork on display is by the venerable artists and designers Stern Pinball employs, such as Greg Freres, Kevin O’Connor, Dirty Donny, Jeremy Packer and George Gomez.

Lots of Kevin O’Connor’s Kiss artwork is on display
Lots of Kevin O’Connor’s Kiss artwork is on display
Pinball artwork from Dirty Donny
Pinball artwork from Dirty Donny
A close up Dirty Donny’s Beatniks backglass
A close-up Dirty Donny’s Beatniks backglass
Artwork development for Ghostbusters
Artwork development for Ghostbusters
Add-on interior cabinet art and body armor on Ghostbusters
Add-on interior cabinet art and body armor on Ghostbusters
A drawing from George Gomez for the Monster Bash game
A drawing from George Gomez for the Monster Bash game
Prototype sculptures for some newer Stern pinballs
Prototype sculptures for some newer Stern pinballs

The exhibit curator Mark Porter and his wife Kate are both big pinball fans. Mark told me that the idea for a pinball-themed exhibition came from his personal enthusiasm for pinball machines.

Artwork from Doug Watson for Barracuda before it became Barracora
Artwork from Doug Watson for Barracuda before it became Barracora

Since this an interactive art exhibition, there are nine pinball machine exhibits available on free play. Six are recent Stern titles and three are Bally/Williams classics.

Game list:

Spider-Man Vault Edition (Stern)
The Walking Dead (Stern)
Ghostbusters (Stern)
Game of Thrones LE (Stern)
Metallica (Stern)
Kiss (Stern)
Kiss (Bally)
Sorcerer (Williams)
Dolly Parton (Bally)

 

A row of recent Stern pinballs to play
A row of recent Stern pinballs to play: Spider-Man, The Walking Dead, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones & Metallica
More of the pinballs in the exhibit
More of the pinballs in the exhibition: Kiss, Kiss, Sorcerer and Dolly Parton

I have seen interviews with Gary Stern in which he states that the pinball industry will eventually die unless the machines are out where people can play them. It is very clever of Stern Pinball to support a pinball exhibition in a college building. There’s a large number of young people that will be exposed to the exhibits and hopefully they will see how much fun they are, and then will play pins in the future.

A wall with pinball machine diagrams and a video from the movie Tommy
A wall with pinball machine diagrams and a video from the movie ‘Tommy’

The highlight of the exhibition for me was seeing the playfield development drawings of Medieval Madness by Greg Freres. It was fascinating to see the details progress in the multiple drawings.

Medieval Madness playfield drawings from Greg Freres
Medieval Madness playfield drawings from Greg Freres

I was very happy to see that the home of pinball machines has such a nice exhibition showcasing the art of pinball.