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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Richard Rezac

Richard John Rezac
It's always hard, in writing about recent artists, to know how much importance to place on their work in the overall grand scheme of art history. Older artists are a little easier to place as are a few younger, more daring ones. Then there are people like Richard John Rezac. If you've never heard of him, don't be alarmed. Though quite talented and experienced, having already made a name for himself in the highly skilled area of commercial art involving photo retouching. Until his death in 2010, the man also applied his skills to the highly specialized field of artistically enhancing archival photos for print reproduction. He knew his stuff. He worked in the field since the age of 14. He was born in 1934 in New York City but has also worked in Denver and Milan, before taking up residence in tiny Wahoo, Nebraska (a suburb of Omaha), until his death. In his lifetime, he dealt with all evolving the state-of-the-art photographic processes in creating visual imagery from the ancient art of adding transparent oil paints to black and white photos up through Flexichrome, Dye Transfer, and Giclee printing fed by the digital manipulation of computer imagery.

Waters Edge, 1969, John Richard Rezac
His sole area of interest was military art. His greatest emphasis seems to have been on Vietnam and WW II, though his collection also paid token interest in W.W.I, Korea, and Operation Desert Storm. Some of his work is printed on archival watercolor paper using the eight-color ink process while others are on canvas. And while the artwork seems skilled and the reproduction flawless, there is never any question that what you're looking at are heavily retouched photos. Yet in most cases, the work rises above "colorization" it also stops short of the quality and visual effect of traditional painting. Often, colorized photos have a distressingly drab look about them. That's not the case with Rezac's work. If anything, some of them seem to be to be over colored, sometimes to the point of appearing "pretty," which, given the genre, seems to me slightly out of sync.

Missing Man, (photo) 1917, Richard Rezac, color
Now, having told you all that, you see why he's such a hard man to label. Is he an "artist" (certainly not in the traditional sense) or merely a skilled technician working on a level far above that of your typical, pixilated, computer geek? In viewing his work, don't expect to find modest, litho type reproductions, or their associated prices. His Giclee prints, such as Foggy Belgium, Jan 31, 1945, are 24"x36" and go for $2,300 each in an edition of 250. Artist proofs are slightly more. But that's not all. For an "ouch" price of $5,500 you can have a 72" x 56" image of the same work (one of ten). It's certainly not "over the couch" art. He owned all his own equipment including a Giclee franchise. And his work is not just interior decoration with a military bent. He's had several traveling exhibits and boasted of his work being already in museums. What to make of this? A curiosity or a glimpse of the future of art? WhiIe it may not be the whole future, I have to think we're starting to see a large part of twenty-first century art unfolding here, even though Rezac's content and prices would seem to limit the market for his work severely. Anyone wanna to go in with me on a Giclee printer?

OK, Gotcha, Dak To, Vietnam,
1967, Richard John Rezac

I'm Alive, I'm Alive, Dak To,
Vietnam, 1967, Richard Rezac


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