Wood Engraver and Publisher
Richard Wagener grew up in southern California spending a lot of time with his grandfather in remote parts of the desert and up in the Sierra. Early art classes introduced him to Maynard Dixon and Edgar Payne. After school activities included selling the evening newspapers at the Disney studios where he met many of the illustrators and animators. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego and a graduate degree from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Wagener started teaching himself how to engrave in wood in 1980 after a chance encounter with a commercial engraving in a book. It allowed him to recognize the potential use of the medium to create a high degree of detail and a wide variety of tonalities in print. He consciously rejected the idea of buying a book on how to engrave because he was only interested in seeing how he might use the medium to further his ideas.
Wagener entered the fine press book world after meeting Peter Koch at Kala Institute in Berkeley. Richard had been engraving for ten years, creating a blend of realistic and abstract imagery that often used letterforms as a compositional device. It was suggested that they do a book project together. They ended up working on four books: Zebra Noise with a Flatted Seventh, The Fragments of Parmenides, California in Relief published by The Book Club of California, and later a companion book, The Sierra Nevada Suite.
In 2006 Richard established the imprint Mixolydian Editions for publishing his own projects. The first endeavor was a series of vignettes and prose poems that captured his growing up in a particular part of Los Angeles during the 1950s -1960s titled Cracked Sidewalks. After relocating to northern California in 2010, Richard published a second book in 2011 featuring a series of engravings based on a 1995 trip to Nepal and Tibet. The images are from the Kathmandu valley, up the Kali Gandaki valley in the Annapurna region of Nepal, then a journey to Lhasa, Shigatse, and the countryside of Tibet. In 2015 he co-published LOOM with Nawakum Press comprising sixteen conceptual engravings with poetry from New Zealand poet Alan Loney.