John Stoughton and Team B's Back-2-School Emoji Show Continues the Real-Life Emoji Art Takeover

You know, I had no idea that emoji art was such a burgeoning trend, but apparently it is; as I’ve discovered since the announcement of all those new emojis hit the Internet, artists and other creatives everywhere have been reinventing the little pictographs we all know and love time and time again in increasingly interesting ways. This latest emoji art project comes from John Stoughton as part of the upcoming Back-2-School Emoji Show — and believe you me, you’ve never see emojis like this before.

Stoughton and his Cincinnati-based design research group, Team B, have teamed up with art supply and music store Rock Paper Scissors to create the Back-2-School Emoji Show. An exploration of how emojis function as methods of communication after they leave our smartphone screens and enter the world at large, the show promises to be both thought-provoking and whimsical; the pieces submitted to it will be on display from August 29 through September. “Emojis are the most popular form of visual communication today — an entire language born and sustained in the digital era,” wrote Stoughton in an email to Bustle. “The exhibited work will suggest ways this language might start to seep out into the world through printed media, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture — beyond the glow of our screens."

In advance of the show, Stoughton has unleashed some of his own creations on the world. Stoughton begins by taking large format emojis from everyone’s favorite iMessage character source, Emojipedia; he then edits them into photographs of actual places via the magic of Photoshop. Some of the characters he uses stand in for their real-life counterparts, like the Statue of Liberty’s face here:

Others act as props, as the tractor does here:

And the cars and bushes do here:

And sometimes, they add a little something extra to an existing scene, like the pushpins do in this image of London’s infamous (and — let's face it — extraordinarily phallic) gerkin building:

Stoughton told Bustle he created the images “to speculate architectural implications of literal emoji translations (think URL --> IRL).” He added, “They are part Claus Oldenberg, part Nils-Ole Lund, with a dash of Robert Venturi and a sprinkle of Duchamp.” In some ways, they put in mind of Liza Nelson’s Emoji IRL.LOL images, only in reverse: Rather than taking the illustrated characters and recreating them realistically, Stoughton’s work takes those illustrated characters and imbues reality with them. Interesting, no?

Oh, and hey, guess what? If you’re an artist, graphic designer, or otherwise visually creative type, I’ve got good news for you: The Back-2-School Emoji Show is accepting submissions through August 23, so now’s your time to shine! Find out more at the Back-2-School Emoji Show Facebook page; participation is free, although emoji selection is on a first come, first served basis — that is, if you’ve got a specific iMessage character that speaks to your artistic soul, you’d better jump on it before someone else snags it. Wrote Stoughton to Bustle, “With nearly every emoji represented in the upcoming exhibition, we intend for the show to be an overwhelming experience for visitors, saturated full of ideas (in an extreme variety of media) to be unpacked in the upcoming school year.”

Happy emoji-ing!

Images: Courtesy of John Stoughton