First look at the Emoji Art and Design Show (slide show)

Get a sneak peek at Eyebeam’s two-day event, highlighting the ubiquitous texting mini-cartoons as an emerging art form

  • Emojis by Kyle M. F. Williams

  • Shift Key by Maya Ben-Ezer

  • TRANSICONMORPHOSIS by Fito Segrera and Emilio Vavarella

  • Emoji Eustace Tilley by Fred Benenson

Emojis by Kyle M. F. Williams

The little Japanese emoticons will make their debut on the art scene when the world's first all-emoji exhibition and pop-up market opens on Friday at Eyebeam. The Emoji Art and Design Show, presented in conjunction with Forced Meme Productions, delves into the ubiquitous smiley faces (and hearts and grinning cats and flying turds and… well, you get the idea) with artworks selected by open call, ranging from digital prints and sculptures to videos and performance art.

As the show's website notes, there's nothing new about humans communicating visually—the practice harks back to cave paintings and hieroglyphics—but the emoji craze in today's culture is what's worth exploring. "Emoji have secured a venerable place in popular culture," says Eyebeam communications director Zoë Salditch on why the pictographs deserve to be art. "Music videos, clothing, viral memes and works of art have incorporated or co-opted emoji as part of their visual vernacular. If Andy Warhol was working today, it's not hard to imagine him creating a series of prints on the iconic emoji."

As to why they're so popular among millennials and, well, just about everyone? "People are drawn to emoji because it speaks to something basic and innately human," says Salditch. "We understand one another through body language and facial expressions, and emoji provide this in our text communications. Plus, they're pretty cute, lighthearted and fun. The smiling-poop emoji for example—hilarious!"

Click through the images above for a sneak peek of the pieces that will be exhibited during the two-day show, and scroll down for an emoji timeline.

The Emoji Art and Design Show is happening Dec 13, 14, noon–6pm at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center (free). It closes with “I Have No Words: Emoji and the New Visual Vernacular,” a panel with Salditch, New York Times writer Jenna Wortham, "Emoji Dick" creator Fred Benenson and more (Dec 14 at 3pm).

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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