Famed artist William T. Wiley has transformed an old pinball machine into high art, doing something we're stunned hasn't been done before. And thanks to the efforts of Jim Dietrick of Novato's Pinball Revival, he made sure it could be played as well as gawked at. The original 1964 machine, which we glimpsed on the Internet Pinball Database (there is one!), offers one of those charmingly backward goodtime takes on mid-20th-century American might. Dealing with the first trip under the North Pole by a Nautilus submarine, North Star features an Elvis-in-the-Arctic joie de vivre with ice bunnies, singing Eskimos, and a polar bear on a leash. For his exhibit "Only One Earth PunBall," Wiley reformatted this tableau into a dizzying comment on climate change and art, with a wild cartoony style awash in color and hinged together with mysterious text. Some of those words are daunting ("Only art can save us now"), others are wry puns ("The eye scabs are melting"), while a few are soberly utilitarian ("10 points when lit"). Although Wiley masterminded the project, Dietrick and Joe Sweeney and Richard Lang of the gallery helped transform the game, which is set on free play for the duration of the exhibit right next to the original. Assorted works by the artist accompany the machine.
May 16-July 3, 2008