Shadowboxes and Arrangements
Cover for “Tarzan Triumphant”, showing the torn-paper-collage technique.
Collage elements in a surreal landscape.
Collage and montage are common elements in Powers’ works. A number of his book covers featured elements with ragged edges. In many cases these were produced by tearing pieces of paper (sometimes paintings in their own right) and attaching them to the painting. These could be used to depict landscape features, shadowy figures, or simply abstract elements.
He also produced more formal arrangements, combining one or more individual paintings with torn paper, small sculptural elements, pebbles, shells, and other found objects. He would often mount paintings on 1/2″ thick foam board and attach that to a larger background giving a sense of depth.
Untitled triptych of three small paintings.
Perhaps the most interesting and least-known of these arrangements are his shadowboxes which combine paintings and sculptural elements. We are privileged to have a number of these as part of the “Seen and Unseen” exhibition. Many are approximately 30″x40″ and about 4-6 inches deep.
Shadowbox with four small paintings and sculptural elements
Shadowbox with small painting floated over background painting and including sculptural elements
Throughout his life Powers was known for painting on whatever happened to be at hand. In his later years he took to painting on sections of hollow-core interior doors. These were cheap, readily available, and came in convenient widths from 28 to 36 inches. With proper edge trimming, these pieces had depth and presence while remaining relatively lightweight. Many of these works were done in his “surreal landscape” style with torn paper collage elements and stark, angular black and white lines.
Untitled surreal landscape, approx. 60″x36″
Click on one of the links below for updated catalogs for our Richard Powers exhibitions:
Baldwin Hill Art & Framing is proud to represent the American artist and illustrator Richard M. Powers (1921-1996). Known primarily for his commercial illustrations, particularly science fiction book covers, Powers nonetheless had a body of fine art work as well. Many of these works explore the same surrealistic themes that appear in his book covers.
Stylistic similarities in Powers’ book illustration and fine art work
Powers did not set out to become a science fiction illustrator, but it was here that his natural style found a home. He was drawn to the surrealistic styles of Dali and Tanguy, but these were a poor fit for his first commissions to illustrate literature and children’s books. He found his home in science fiction when Ian Ballantine, founder of Ballantine Books, decided that he wanted a more mature look for his science fiction collection. Up until this point most science fiction books were illustrated with bold, realistic renderings of spaceships, monsters, and spacesuited figures. Ballantine realized that tales of the fantastic could well be depicted by abstract images that create a mood, rather than literal pictures that illustrate the story. Powers’ style was a perfect match for this vision.
Left: Powers in a realistic style. Center: Powers’ abstract style. Right: The same book with a cover by Yves Tanguy
Powers distinguished between his two bodies of work with different signatures. His commercial illustrations were signed “Powers” or “rmpowers”, while his fine art work was signed “Gorman Powers” after his mother’s maiden name.
Baldwin Hill Art & Framing is honored to be able to work with the Powers estate to show these lesser-known fine art works to the general public.