In recent years Brooklyn-based still-life artist Richard Baker has painted true to size interpretations of vintage paperback book covers, particularly classic covers from the 1950s through the 1970s including literary luminaries such as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and William Faulkner. More recently, Baker has also begun painting classic record album covers. The artist scours used bookstores and the remaining record stores in search of appropriately careworn paperbacks and albums to immortalize in his portraits. Baker says, “No precious first editions, no rare things—just your common companions.”
Baker’s complete body of work, including his earlier highly praised still-lifes, has evolved over years of commingling depictions of two dimensional representations with a rendering of three dimensional forms. The artist captures the details of not only the images themselves, but also the wear and tear of the books and album covers over the years, by giving attention to inevitable signs of use–an apt metaphor for the process of aging and the absorption of history.
As physical objects the paintings of books and album covers represent the lure of memory, reverie, desire and love and are deeply nostalgic. The paintings are imbued with the recognition of how some books and albums can be powerful icons and containers of memory and emotion that serve as stand-ins and time-specific chronicles of our lives. In the paintings the artist includes the spine of the books in perspective representing them as objects of contemplation while also creating the illusion of space around the books. Baker now realizes that he has chosen books as a primary subject matter in an era of new reading technologies and that his book portraits have now taken on another layer of meaning as reminders of mortality.