Rick Berry

Rick Berry (b. 1952) is a contemporary American expressionistic figurative artist based in the Boston area. Berry creates art for galleries, illustration, and paintings for theatrical performances. Berry’s work has appeared in many science fiction, fantasy and comic books, including Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman,’ ‘Magic: The Gathering’ cards, and Stephen King novels. In 1985, Berry created the first digitally painted book cover worldwide for William Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer.’

Berry was born in San Bernardino, California. His father, an air force fighter pilot, was frequently stationed in China. Berry’s childhood home was populated with Asian art which fascinated Berry and later found its way into his works.

Frequently moving in his youth, he left behind friends, homes and communities, but he never let go of art. Self-taught, drawing was the constant in his life. He learned from comics, book covers,and anything available from the streets. At 17 while living in Colorado, Berry left school and home, hitchhiking across the country. His art career started around that time in underground comics, as a founding member of Everyman Studios in Colorado. His first commissioned painting for the book industry was a cover for Jules Verne’s ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea,’ published by Simon and Schuster, 1978.

An innovator in new media during the early 1980s, Berry is credited with the first digitally painted book cover for the cyberpunk novel ‘Neuromancer,’ by William Gibson. Published in 1985, this cover was commissioned when it became clear that ‘Neuromancer’ would sweep the awards after its initial publication in 1984 and remained the novel’s cover for almost two decades. Berry created the painting with assistance from hackers at MIT’s Machine Architectural Group. Like William Gibson, Berry purchased his first computer from the proceeds of ‘Neuromancer.’ He immediately began experimenting with it as a groundbreaking new creative tool, not to mimic techniques of traditional media. Berry again worked with William Gibson and director Robert Longo for SonyPictures’ ‘Johnny Mnemonic.’ The team of Rick Berry, Darrel Anderson and Gene Bodio employed state-of-the-art tech advances to design and produce the CGI cyberspace climax – the award-winning sequence featured in SIGGRAPH’s animation revue, 1996. Berry was also Keanu Reeves’ cyberspace stunt double in the film.

In 2010, Rick Berry and Phil Hale were the subject of the museum installation ‘Parallel Evolutions’ in Lucca Tuscany, Italy, ” …two artists who are emblematic of the fluid, shifting nature of contemporary art.” —Cosimo Lorenzo Pancini & Emanuele Vietina, Co-Curato. The exhibition coincided with the annual Lucca Comics and Games Festival attracting 140,000 attendees. Berry and Hale were honored guests at this festival twice, 1998 and 2009. ‘Parallel Evolutions’ concluded with a special art event—Berry and Hale collaborating before a packed audience at the museum. These paintings sold during the festival in the charity auction for the local children’s hospital. A decade earlier, Berry had designed the festival’s now ongoing live collaborative performance site featuring international artists working together for the first time. The two artists first met when Phil approached Berry as a teenager interested in acquiring art instruction, and they continue  to share in a lifelong association.

Berry was invited to participate in the first visual art residency offered by Opera Boston, a company known for innovative repertoire choices. The two-season collaboration seemed a natural partnership as soon as it began with Shostakovich’s surreal opera ‘The Nose.’ ‘Rick Berry,…was embedded in the rehearsals’ where he sketched performers in the dark. Back in the studio, Berry would put aside these small sketches and without photography or models, he relied upon his unique process of discovery in the paint and his memory, to evolve large scale works for gallery exhibitions.

In 2010, recording artist Amanda Palmer invited Berry to engage in her upcoming production of ‘Cabaret’ at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Once again, he employed his process of rapid ink drawing while embedded in rehearsals, later producing large expressive oil paintings as part of the café theater set. Influenced by the intensity of the story, performers, and Butoh movement (a Japanese style of dance featuring playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments) in this production, Berry created works that were ‘like images of ghosts projected on smoke and ash. Just at the moment you think you’ve resolved them, they shimmer and erode before your eyes.’ Berry was awarded the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators for his painting ‘To Absent Friends’ in this series.

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