You will find only nerdy reverie, old-school video games and at least one ironic, unflattering portrait of Miley Cyrus at "Revenge of the Nerdcore: Episode II," an exhibit opening Saturday, Jan. 11, at Ink and Pistons Gallery.
The site of so many lowbrow diversions about millennial pop culture, J.R. and Amanda Linton's 18-month-old tattoo shop and art space in West Palm Beach is hardly a stranger to the marriage of video games, "Star Wars" and comic-book superheroes. J.R. revived "Revenge of the Nerdcore" after receiving a crush of art submissions this time last year, which was proof enough that geekdom was alive and well in early January.
"My wife appreciates the genre a little less than I do. She knows how much it was a part of my childhood. She's more into Strawberry Shortcake and the Smurfs, so she just tolerates my uber-dorkiness," Linton says with a laugh. " 'Episode II' will be much better than 'Episode I.' I guarantee it doesn't follow the quality of the 'Star Wars' prequels. This is my fun, baby."
The 60 artworks from 30 artists, up through Feb. 18, contain throwbacks to 1980s ephemera, with 8-bit pixel art, tributes to the platform gaming of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. and references to animated TV programs "Transformers" and "Jem." Linton's four artworks recast characters from the Mario franchise as modern-day caricatures: In "Brothers," the red-overall-wearing plumber and his sibling, Luigi, look older, scruffier and more jaded, with an air of world-weariness that suggests "too many years of beating up [the villains] Bowser and goombas," he says. Princess Peach shaves half her head and adds a nose piercing in "One Up," her face frozen in a familiar, if indecent, expression of tongue-wagging, twerk-happy abandon.
"I like the duality of taking all your favorite video-game characters and making them look gross. I think Princess Peach is a meth addict," Linton says.
But if Linton's less-flattering tributes to childhood nostalgia seem to clash with the exhibit's more upbeat material, Dave Berns' artwork "The Dark Side Returns" offers a more respectful counterpoint. The print depicts a lightsaber-wielding Darth Vader in silhouette against a backdrop of lightning, in a crime-fighting posture reminiscent of Batman.
In William Butler's "Mario," the Fort Lauderdale artist hand-paints the plumber on a wooden Russian nesting doll, showing the character holding a bloody wrench. Other layers of the doll reveal Bowser, Luigi and a goomba. Butler, 35, says he always interpreted the franchise, which fascinated him as a kid, as being a tale of Mario on a "villainous rampage against Bowser's world."
"I'm aware people will ridicule me for saying this stuff," Butler says. "But I've been dissecting video games my whole life. I would always flip the villains and make them the heroes. I even felt bad for Skeletor and Darth Vader."
Revenge of the Nerdcore: Episode II
When: 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, through Feb. 18
Where: Ink and Pistons Tattoo and Slushbox Art Gallery, 2716 N. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach
Contact: 561-832-4655 or InkAndPistons.com