If colourful beautiful things was a bricks and mortar space in the real world, rather than a collection of pixels on planet Internet, it would be a large, airy, light-filled gallery/showroom/bookstore (with an amazing indoor/outdoor cafe serving the best coffee).
There’d be lots of clean, white, open space to give all the colourful, beautiful things on display room to breathe and be seen, but here and there sections of wall would be painted in vibrant hues against which other colours would pop and sing, whilst other areas of wall would be covered in fabulous wallpapers. One of which would definitely be a Rex Ray wallpaper – maybe the one above, Bucote, or possibly Cocobolo below, both available from flavorpaper.com.
One of the first pieces I wrote for this website was about San Francisco-based collage artist Rex Ray – you can read it here. It’s an ongoing love affair and my ultimate pick-me-up, when all else fails and I need a dose of uplifting, energising colour and pattern, is to leaf through his book Rex Ray: Art + Design. It never, ever, lets me down and probably should be available on prescription.
How to describe his work? The introduction to Rex Ray: Art + Design says: “Drawing inspiration from the fluid forms of mid-century modernism, Rex Ray creates a retro-futuristic line that is all his own – one that appeals on both a visual and visceral level.” The artist himself observes “I don’t try to intentionally make them retro, but I have to admit that a lot of the shapes I use are playing off those from’50’s and ’60’s modernism”.
And of Rex Ray’s unique use of colour? He tells this story about the working methods of American modernist artist and photographer Man Ray:
“He (Man Ray) wrote about working on a group of paintings at night. By candlelight. In the morning, the colours would be completely different than he thought. I intentionally worked under bad light for that same reason and the results were amazing. Things would look decent under the 40-watt bulb, but the next day in daylight I saw combinations that I would never have allowed had the lighting been proper. I thought “These are so wrong they’re right!”.”
For my own part, aside from the highly therapeutic effect that the work of Rex Ray has on my spirits, I’m always astonished and inspired when I think of the evolution of his work from small, simple collages made of cut up magazines and newspapers into these ornate fantasies of shape and colour; for me, it’s an extraordinary illustration of the artistic and creative processes. Sadly it’s almost impossible to get a real sense of the incredible intricacy of his work without seeing it close up “in the flesh”, so to speak. There’s layer upon endlessly fascinating layer of detail, texture and pattern created by the papers that Rex Ray paints and prints himself. That said, the book and the many posters that are now available actually do a pretty good job in that regard – much better than here on screen, which although great for colour doesn’t show up the detail quite so well.
If you’d like to learn more random facts about Rex Ray, read this great post on design milk, asking him about some of his favourite things – turns out he has a compulsive LP and chair collecting habit. It’s funny and fascinating, as you’d expect.
Visit rexray.com and gallery16.com to see see more of his work, available as resin panels, canvases and limited edition prints. Art prints and printed canvases are available in the UK from online retailers Easyart and AllPosters. Wallpaper printed to order from flavorpaper.com.