THE ART OF RICHARD POWERS
by Richard Powers and Jane Frank
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Richard Powers was a science fiction artist whose career began in the years following World War II. His work is notable for the abstract and surrealistic qualities which it brought to the world of fantastic art. In The Art of Richard Powers, editor Jane Frank provides a selection of Powers's work along with accompanying text that clearly explains to the layman what techniques Powers used and the progression of his work from the 1950s through the 1990s.
While the strength of any art book is the art itself, Frank's discussion of technique and history enhance the viewing experience. At the same time, the amount of text means that the reproductions of Richard Powers's art is not as large as it can be. Although specific details are lost, this is less of an issue than it might have been because of the styles and techniques Powers employed. The reader cannot see individual brush strokes, but it is not likely that they would have appeared even if the reproductions had taken up the entire page, as a few do (i.e. "Missing Man," p.72).
In addition to the explanations and context provided by Frank's text, the collection includes a brief biography of Powers by his son, Richard Gid Powers. While many of the art books Paper Tiger is publishing include some biographical information about the author, it nearly all relates to their career as an artist. The biographical information in The Art of Richard Powers includes this type of information, but more it gives insight into the family life of the artist and the philosophy which lay behind his work, from political to humor. This allows the reader to explore Powers's artwork with a deeper understanding of the person who produced it.
Frank collects a series of paintings of Powers's own creation, fFlar, in one segment, along with an explanation of what fFlar was and how some of the individual paintings found their way onto the covers of various books. This section is particularly enlightening because too often, artists have their own ideas which are sublimated to the commercial needs of their profession. In this case, Powers was able to create a uniform whole, even if much of the public would only see individual pieces without an explanation of the greater whole.
In the end, Powers is given his own voice with the publication of a previously unreleased interview with Jane Frank and Roger Doyle in 1993. While the interview meshes nicely with what Frank has written throughout the book and with Richard Gid Powers's recollections, the interview focuses on his artistic creations and career. In it, Powers demonstrates an awareness of his position in the field as well as acknowledging the debts he owes to his own predecessors.
The book ends with a lengthy checklist in chronological order of Powers's published art. This serves as a wonderful resource for the collector, however it would have been more useful from the point of view of a casual reader if the checklist had doubled as an index to the pieces of art reproduced throughout the book.
The Art of Richard Powers is an exceptional introduction to the work of this important genre artist. It gives an explanation of his importance as well as his technique while providing an extensive gallery of his artwork For those who are already familiar with Powers's canon, this book has numerous clear and bright reproductions of works which otherwise many of his fans may have only seen on creased or stained paperback covers which have dulled their look and details.