Chess and Art: Good Moves

by Alexey Root
9/6/2019 – From September 6th to October 5th, The Power Station, a not-for-profit initiative providing a platform for contemporary art projects in Dallas, Texas, hosts Good Moves, a group exhibition dedicated to chess. The Good Moves online auction ends October 6th. Auction proceeds benefit Vogel Alcove, to endow a chess program for homeless children. WIM ALEXEY ROOT is attending the Good Moves premiere and sent us this preview. | Photo: Kevin Todora

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Helping homeless children

The Good Moves exhibition at The Power Station benefits Vogel Alcove, a Dallas-based, non-profit organization on a mission to help young children overcome the lasting and traumatic effects of homelessness. After the Good Moves exhibition ends on October 5th, an auction of its artworks concludes on October 6th. Proceeds from that auction will endow a Vogel Alcove chess program specifically tooled to the needs of homeless children.

The Power Station was founded by contemporary art collectors Janelle and Alden Pinnell. When I spoke with Alden Pinnell by phone in mid-August, he said that his board game of choice is backgammon. One of the artworks in the Good Moves exhibition looks, to me, rather like a backgammon board.

Chin Music Kevin Todora

Definitely not a chess board! | Photo: Kevin Todora

About that artwork, Gregory Ruppe, Director of Exhibitions at The Power Station, wrote:

The painting, Chin Music (chromium oxide green board, carmin red bar, Prussia blue hue ace point, black point), was Zak Kitnick’s contribution to the benefit auction after the artist humorously told us that he ‘tried to make a chess thing but gave up…One of these days I’ll have to share with you a long list of why Backgammon is better than Chess.’

Zak Kitnick’s Chin Music is Flashe and UV sealant on framed panel and 24.5 x 36.5 inches.

CLK coverDuring our phone call, I told Alden Pinnell a story he had not heard before, that of Tanitoluwa Adewumi (or “Tani” as he is called). Before Tani won the primary (K-3) championship section of the New York State Scholastic Championships, he was living in a New York City homeless shelter. On March 16, 2019, The New York Times published Nicholas Kristof’s opinion piece about Tani’s chess accomplishments and housing situation. After that, Tani’s life was transformed by hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by well-wishers.

Tani’s story captured the attention of chess journalists next. To list just three of the many “Tani” articles, ChessBase editor Macauley Peterson wrote about Tani’s story. I wrote about Tani for The Conversation. My editor for that piece, Jamaal Abdul-Alim, wrote about Tani for the August issue of Chess Life Kids. Courtesy of US Chess, 25 copies of that “Tani” issue of Chess Life Kids were distributed at the Good Moves exhibition’s preview night, attended by board members of Vogel Alcove. Since Vogel Alcove is planning a chess program for children who are homeless, like Tani was, perhaps Tani’s story will inspire Vogel Alcove’s board members.

The artworks in Good Moves also inspire. One of my favourite sets has pawns that look like whales, at least to me. That set is by Dallas-based artist Lucia Simek. Asked about this, Ruppe replied:

Indeed they are whales…although I cannot speak to their reference point, Lucia’s work is powerful and mysterious.

waterproof chess set

Lucia Simek’s Waterproof Chess Set for Sailors Lost at Sea is made of ceramic tile, adhesive, marble, biodegradable foam, data cable, twist ties, and polymer clay | Photo: Kevin Todora

Contributing artists to Good Moves include: Darren Bader, Sandra Cinto, Marcel Dzama, Sabra Moon Elliott, David Flaugher, Jeff Gibbons, Ann Greene Kelly, Rochelle Goldberg, Jacob Kassay, Zak Kitnick, Ella Kruglyanskaya, L, Veit Laurent Kurz, Isabel Legate, Israel Lund, Calvin Marcus, Tony Matelli, Charles Mayton, Francisco Moreno, Eli Ping, Michelle Rawlings, Gabriel Rico, Gregory Ruppe, Eduardo Sarabia, Maxamillian Schubert, Ludwig Schwarz, Bruce Sherman, Lucia Simek, Michael E. Smith, Kevin Todora, Zeke Williams, and Paul Winker.

Good Moves is organized by The Power Station, in collaboration with James Cope of And Now Gallery. Heritage Auctions is generously orchestrating the online auction. Special programming will take place during the exhibition, such as a Family Day on September 28. The exhibition culminates in a closing event on the evening of October 5th, with the online auction concluding October 6th at 7:00 pm Central Daylight Time, 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The auction page includes photos by Kevin Todora of each artwork in the exhibit.


Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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