This exhibition explores the work of contemporary artists who borrow from play and games to reveal social, philosophical, and cultural issues. From playfulness, to mathematical strategy, the exhibiting artists have mined the significance of games, reinventing them to create experiences that involve viewers, and reflect on the nature of participation in art.

Artistic processes tied to game-playing have historically attracted the avant-garde. They were intrinsic, for example, to the work of war-addled Surrealists and Dadaists, who invented the “exquisite corpse” collaborative activity as well as automatic drawing in their quest to free the imagination and upend bourgeois pretensions of art. In the 1960s and 1970s, the counter-cultural and anti-war Fluxus group and the New Games Foundation questioned capitalism and corporate culture by staging massive public games in city parks. Moving away from the classical chess conventions of kings, queens, and bishops, the works in this exhibition do not represent medieval figures but strategies of decision-making around contemporary issues.

Organized by curator Melissa E. Feldman, Free Play is circulated by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, and made possible, in part, by grants from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and with generous support from ICI’s International Forum and Board of Trustees.