Review by C.J. Bunce

This week Star Trek: The Next Generation observes its 30th anniversary of airing its pilot episode.  For this anniversary Titan Books released this week an over-sized hardcover book collecting artist Juan Ortiz’s poster art that he designed for a 2015 trading card series by Rittenhouse called the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series (previewed here at borg.com two years ago).  Like the trading card series, the new book The Art of Juan Ortiz: Star Trek: The Next Generation features all 177 episodes of the series, as interpreted by the celebrated illustrator and designer for firms that include Disney and Warner Bros.  You might recall Ortiz’s breakout work, his 2013 poster art for Star Trek’s original series, an eye-popping re-imagining of each episode of the classic show as if each episode had its own movie-style poster (reviewed here at borg.com).  For Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ortiz takes a similar approach–each poster an homage to an episode–but his style and focus are entirely different.  The Art of Juan Ortiz: Star Trek: The Next Generation requires the individual to take a bit of an intellectual journey.  If you were a fan of Ortiz’s original Star Trek series designs, you might approach this expecting something similar.  It’s not.  A flip through his book is more like attending a new gallery show of a modern artist you’ve seen before but he’s debuting an exhibition of new work.

As with any artwork the interpretation is in the eyes of the viewer, sometimes–and perhaps even usually–requiring the viewer to take an active approach to the viewing experience.  The viewer must participate in a review of Ortiz’s posters.  With Ortiz’s original series, they all rang with a similar nostalgia factor, applying mid-century retro imagery from advertising, movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  Some of his Next Generation posters follow the rules he created with his first series.  His poster for The Big Goodbye features a pulp noir cover with glimpses at the crew in the Dixon Hill holonovel.  The Dauphin poster features a stylized silhouette of the scene where Wesley introduces Salia to another world.  His look at A Fistful of Datas is an homage to classic spaghetti Western posters.  And his image for The Neutral Zone (as seen on the book cover) captures the Romulan warbird reaching out for the Enterprise-D, similar to stylized imagery from his first series.  Ortiz mostly forgoes the more expected nods this time.  He also forgoes 1980s design tropes–something a viewer might expect for a 1980s series homage–and opts instead for inspiration from indie film posters, black-light posters, rock/punk, and comic books generally.  The result is a bit refreshing while also unexpected and even jarring.  The artist clearly takes the viewer on a new journey–an intriguing one that tells the viewer as much about our own knowledge of the series as about Ortiz’s views of the series–while he explores a new and different way to look at Star Trek.  

Ortiz acknowledges in the notes that his favorite character is Brent Spiner’s Data, and Data seems to be his default subject matter for many of the images, while he also employs Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard frequently and appears to use Denise Crosby as a focus whenever possible.  As much as he focuses an image on the grand theme of an episode, he just as often pulls the most obscure–while still memorable–detail for the eye to focus on.  Take for instance his response to Parallels, an episode that showcases Michael Dorn’s Worf, who has crossed over from a parallel universe.  Ortiz instead uses as his focus Riker, featured captaining the ship and later destroyed among an infinite universe of Enterprise-Ds.  His view of Timespace takes a 1960s mod approach, and focuses on the humorous fleeting image where Picard draws a smiley-face in a cloud of gas.  With every image he seems to request the viewer to ask the question:  What part of the episode is being conveyed here?  With that query he causes interaction between the viewer and the art.  And the viewer may not always grasp the message of every poster, which may prompt repeat viewings.

While his best works here are subject to interpretation, he offers up several that one might see as standouts.  His view of The Next Phase has a Romulan firing on a person running through a dimensional wall with only a bit of the leg visible.  His magazine cover homage to Qpid features a UPC code and focuses on the memorable Worf as a not-so merry man.  Second Chances features a clever playing card-like juxtaposition of a red tinted Will Riker with a yellow-tinted Thomas Riker.  His looks at Firstborn and Birthright, Part 2, offer classic Klingon symbolism.  Tapestry uses vast white space to portray Picard in the endless void under the watching eye of John de Lancie’s Q.  And Rascals shows the four young versions of the officers peering around a corner in a classic comedy scene.

A new experience and a nice entry for the coffee-table collector’s bookshelf and something for any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Art of Juan Ortiz: Star Trek: The Next Generation is available now here at Amazon.

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