Artist Richard Backer

I was born on Long Island in a commuter suburb of New York City in 1956. I played army in my backyard and watched cartoons on television, and read a lot of comic books. I started drawing for art's sake in junior high school. If I could draw a reasonable superhero I may have pursued that but, instead, took to cartooning. It was a collection of panel drawings that made up the portfolio that got me into art school. My two favorite artists were Pablo Picasso, if only for Guernica, and Carmine Infantino, for the mid-century elegance he brought to the Flash.

"Why, I'm Beautiful!"

I started the current series of drawings a couple of years ago when I started working on an iPad. The agency provided by the device, and the rigor of its limitations, has been inspiring. Most of my earlier work is black and white line drawing, with formal considerations of structure and balance explored using primitive, stylized body parts and symbols. I'm still doing the same exercises, but now with color, shapes, and texture. The approach isn't really Cubism so much as stand-up comedy. What makes a joke funny is when your brain makes the leap from the setup to the punchline. What makes my drawings work is when your eye makes the leap from what you're seeing to what I'm drawing. The titles are part of the equation.

"Woman with Phone"

The work at hand are recent examples of this process. The theme is vision. The challenge of the drawings, how we see things, is reflected in the subject matter. Mobile devices are little rectangular windows into some kind of zeitgeist. Selfies are how we transport ourselves into flatland. Watching hordes of people walking the streets, heads in their rectangles, is to experience the wrong side of the rapture. I'm just taking notes.


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