Karen Haber Reviews Invented People: Vol. 1 by Rick Berry

Invented People: Vol. 1, Rick Berry (Donald M. Grant 978-1-880418-83-5, $24.95, 48pp, tp) July 2019. Cover by Rick Berry

Rick Berry has always been a fearless visionary artist. He was the first to utilize a computer to cre­ate a digital-art book cover for William Gibson’s Neuromancer in 1984. Much awarded and ac­claimed, Berry has a considerably broader reach than most artists associated with the fantastic art field. In addition to his seminal work in digital art, he has designed opera scenery and theater backdrops, and is a frequent collaborator with such artists as Phil Hale Darrel Anderson and author/singer/performance artist Amanda Palmer. His art appears on and in many books, comics, and illustration compilations. His work often has political underpinnings: among the topics his series of solo exhibitions at Tufts University (for their Institute of Global Leadership) covered were human trafficking and conflict resolution over limited resources. He’s a popular speaker and teacher at colleges and conventions.

In Invented People, his latest retrospective, Berry has provided a welcome new collection of his vibrant multimedia portraiture. Movement, texture, and brushstroke are tremendously impor­tant to this artist. His enigmatic work requires that you return to it again and again to tease out the meanings, the variations in color, the hidden shad­ows. One look simply won’t do the job. There’s no doubt that there is musculature underlying his subjects, and yet they often assume impossible acrobatic postures. His surface textures in no way distract from the underlying solidity, but are worth lingering over. Along the way he subverts the viewer’s expectations of what portraiture should do, then convinces us that, yes, this is the way portraiture should look. And then there are the questions the work generates:

“Is she dancing with a ghost?”

“Does that jumping guy have kangaroo feet?”

“Is that cat really smoking a cigarette?”

Berry’s work is always interesting, frequently intriguing, and often beautiful. The rich, wonder­ful paintings here are meticulously reproduced, good size, one per page, with a list of paintings in back that includes dimensions, medium, and other pertinent info. This slender, handsome softcover volume with gatefold flaps is appar­ently the first of a series from Vienna, a Donald Grant imprint, with a sequel, Vol. 2: Electronika, promised soon.

This review and more like it in the February 2020 issue of Locus.

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