1988, airbrushed stencil with painted detail, numbered 9/35, signed, framed, image 19 x 14in
Rick began this series of paintings upon his return from Easter Island in 1988, where he had gone with fellow-artist Robert Williams to scatter the ashes of their friend and mentor, artist Stanislaw Szukalski. Originally commissioned by the L'Imagerie poster gallery in Sherman Oaks, California, it was to be a series of numbered stencil artworks. Part-way through the project, Rick realized that they were becoming far too detailed and too much time and effort had been expended to complete the deal as it had been conceived. He eventually painted another series in 1990 to meet his obligation.
He continued to work on the series well into 1989, ultimately endowing each piece with unique color and detail. Some were numbered, others not. An unforseen result of this project was Rick being hospitalized through respiratory failure, brought on by exposure to canned spray paint in his unventilated Haight-Ashbury studio. Rick was first interested in the spray can and stencil technique in 1976 when, on a visit to England for an exhibition of his art, he met the artist Roger Dean. Rick visited Dean at his home near Brighton and whilst looking at Deans paintings and studio, he became intrigued by Dean's unusual approach to using canned enamel spray paint and hand cut stencils as art tools. Dean verbally elaborated on this technique and gave Rick a quick demonstration of how it worked.
Rick was passionate about these works, which featured his famous winged eyeball in an updated version. Instead of the image of the eye holding the skull with the sun burning inside that he used in the 1968 original, this eyeball has an icon which, so the story goes, Rick saw on an Indian trading post sign during a trip to Monument Valley, which lies partially in Arizona and part in Utah. It is similar to the Sun-Face images used by several Southwest Indian tribes; he uses it as a symbol of the higher consciousness that the eyeball wields. Other incorporated images are antlers, a traditional symbol of death and rebirth, and a lightning bolt, representative of enlightenment. Essentially, what the paintings show us is Rick illustrating his own belief system through his unique spiritual iconography.