Karen Haber Reviews Spectrum 25, edited by John Fleskes

Spectrum 25: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art, John Fleskes, ed. (Flesk, 978-1-64041-007-7, $45.00, 304pp, hc) November 2018. Cover by Paul Bonner.

Spectrum 25 is up to its usual standard of excel­lent production values and varied, fascinating fantastic artwork from around the globe. Spec­trum honors artists in its respectful reproduction and placement of their work throughout the book. Art is crammed in every inch, including on jacket flaps and endpapers, without ever feeling claustrophobic.

The mixture of art from books, comics, adver­tising, and other media always provides an up-to-date overview of what’s happening in fantastic art. The Spectrum annual’s consistent level of quality in production, design, and featured artwork sets it in a class all its own.

Especially impressive this year is the dimen­sional art section, filled with much good work. Forest Roger’s masterful Octopoid Descending certainly deserves its Gold Award. Also of note in dimensional: Patrick Masson’s “Life and Death” and “Tinkerbell”, Jessica Dalva’s “I’ll Need Entire Cities to Replace You”, and Thomas S. Kuebler’s “Old Scratch”. A special humor/poignance award should go to Maryam Dadkhah for “Seppuku”, in which an old portable phone commits ritual suicide.

Among the Spectrum Award winners, the dark visions of Silver Award winner Piotr Jablonski stood out as a revelation of mood and foreboding. Jablonski says that he didn’t know his work had been submitted to Spectrum – by Wizards of the Coast – and was quite surprised by the award. Gold Award Winner Victo Ngai’s colorful work, popping up throughout the book, is always a pleasure to see. And I would have liked to see more – much more – of Spectrum Grandmaster Claire Wendling’s work, perhaps in a mini feature accompanying the announcement of her selection.

Spectrum offers many new names and visions, displaying an increasingly diverse international group of artists and helping to dismantle the “boys’ club” vibe of the fantastic art field. Also apparent is the tectonic shift of fantastic art onto mainstream platforms.

Among familiar names: Anita Kunz, John Howe, Ed Binkley, Victo Ngai, Gary Gianni, Terryl Whitlatch, John Jude Palencar, Petar Meseldzija, J.A.W. Cooper, Donato Giancola, Yuko Shimizu, Greg Manchess, Galen Dara, Omar Rayyan, Dan dos Santos, Julie Bell, Justin Gerard, Stephanie Law, Scott M. Fischer, David Palumbo, the Balbusso Twins, Frank Cho, Scott Gustafson, Bobby Chiu, Rovina Cai, Brom, Jef­frey Alan Love, Bayard Wu, Travis A. Louie, Annie Stegg Gerard, Edward Kinsella III, Peter de Sève, Wesley Burt, Laurie Lee Brom, Bill Carman, Android Jones, and James Gurney. Final note: the artist index in the back of the book is a crucial tool for art lovers who want to learn more about the artists whose work is featured in Spectrum.

This review and more like it in the March 2019 issue of Locus.

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