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Kim Foster Gallery presents an exhibition of works by Dan Hernandez
Installation view.

NEW YORK, NY.- Early video game consoles were designed with a RESET button. This feature allowed the user to reboot the console’s software. While it was not the intent, the RESET button on Dan Hernandez’ Nintendo Entertainment System often got used as a release of frustration. His finger would jam the RESET in a fit of annoyance at losing a precious life, or at missing an important weapon or power up, early on in a game.

The four new narrative works in the RESET series were influenced by various pictorial genres, including early Christian painting and illuminations, medieval maps, Islamic Art and Indian Miniatures. Two distinct philosophies were employed in the creation of the works – both of which are commonly used in video games. The first is an “open-world” or “sandbox” philosophy. In this approach the player (or viewer) has complete freedom to explore within the boundaries of the provided world. Games like this often include narratives, but it is up to the player whether or not, or how, the narrative is followed. The second philosophy is a more rigid linear approach. In this scenario the player (or viewer) has some autonomy in his/her movement through the world, but ultimately must follow a predetermined path from start to finish. The recent works by Dan Hernandez draw from role-playing video games (RPGs) like The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Pokemon. They are also a nod to arcade button-mashers like Gauntlet and to the many maze-based games of early gaming history like Pac-Man, Maze Craze or Adventure. The Sims is another important influence.

The three more abstract paintings in the RESET series are less grounded and toy box like in nature. In a toy box one finds items that are used to create imaginary worlds mixed freely together without regard to narrative structure or context. In these works, fragments from the artist’s digital archive of appropriated imagery from art history, video games and cartoons, some of which have been used in previous paintings, are piled together in non-narrative compositions. The order in these works is more intuitive and draws on an internal sense of design. The source material includes objects and characters from cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Blackstar and Conan the Adventurer, as well as from a multitude of side scrolling beat-em-up games, competitive fighting games, and RPGs. They also include imagery from similar art historical references that were used in the narrative works.

RESET alternates between the narrative and the abstract. While being distinctly different, these two artistic styles are complementary. They are two sides of the same coin, yin and yang, set and reset.

Hernandez was awarded the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in 2011 and 2015. His artwork has been included in “Game Changers” at the MassArt Art Museum’s inaugural exhibition in February 2020 in Boston. His work was included at Beit Ha’ir Museum in Tel Aviv, Israel “Immersion,” Southern Ohio Museum “Fast Forward to the Renaissance,” “Bad For You” curator Beth Rudin DeWoody in London, Lehman College Art Gallery “Under the Influence: the Comics,” Westport Art Center “Toy Stories” curator Helen Klisser During. Hernandez received 1st Prize at the Annual Chautauqua Exhibit of Contemporary Art in 2013 and 2010. His work has been written about and reproduced in publications in France, Germany, England, Israel, Austria and the US including in ARTnews, Hyperallergic, Spiegel Online, Gizmodo, and Arte Fuse.

A video of the exhibition can be viewed here.

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