Familiar faces from Mario to Ms. Pac-Man are coming to Chandler as part of a new exhibit that blends street art with arcade games. “Two Players, Two Quarters” will feature work by Tempe artists Such and Champ Styles, who also happen to be father and son.
They’ve been working on the exhibit since late December, creating portraits of iconic video game characters and other pieces for the show. “We want to ... help people time-travel back to the age of arcade games,” Such says.
We found the artists laying out the artworks on Valentine’s Day inside a Tempe school where they’re part of an artist residency program. Seven portraits of best-loved characters lay on the ground in a grid along with another painting that references graffiti culture and train cars.
By Monday, the artwork was being installed at Vision Gallery, a nonprofit art space run by the city of Chandler. It’s headed by Peter Bugg, who serves as the city’s visual arts coordinator. “We wanted to create a sense of nostalgia,” Bugg says.
Arcade games were big in the 1980s, when Such used to take sons Christian and Champ to GameWorks inside Arizona Mills mall in Tempe. It closed down in 2016, but that didn’t dampen their passion for arcade culture.
“The exhibit goes hand in hand with who I was in the ‘80s,” Such says. “I’d have a game token in my hand and a marker or some spray paint in my pocket.” Back then, he sometimes sported a Members Only jacket. Today, both father and son wear black pants and shirts, plus black baseball caps with graffiti-inspired pins and patches.
Nowadays, Such and Champ spend their time painting. They’ve done murals with a pop-culture twist around metro Phoenix, from Roosevelt Row to the San Tan Brewing Company in Chandler. Their work often incorporates graffiti imagery (such as paint cans) with Arizona imagery (like a cactus).
Champ is expecting his own child now, but Such still loves talking about Champ’s younger days.
“When he was in the womb, he was always punching, so we called him Champ,” Such says. And Such still keeps a corrugated metal panel Champ painted in the back yard when he was about 11 years old. “He dipped into my vintage Krylon paints to do that one,” Such says.
Bugg and the artists started putting up the show on Monday, which included Champ painting a mural across a large gallery wall visible from the street. They’re also installing stand-up and tabletop consoles, giving gallery visitors the chance to play several games while they’re there.
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A DJ who likes folding in video game audio effects will perform that night, and visitors sporting ‘80s gear will get a custom button designed by Champ.
“We’re excited to see all the kids who’ve only played on a hand-held device and never dropped a token into an arcade game,” Such says. But they’re also eager to see the reaction of people who grew up hanging out in the arcades.
Such says, “This exhibit is all about having fun.”
The "Two Players, Two Quarters" opening reception is planned for Friday, February 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Vision Gallery, 10 East Chicago Street, Chandler.