I have a total obsession with Rex Ray …. or, rather, his work. I think the man is an absolute genius. I just can’t believe sometimes how totally and utterly happy his colours and shapes make me feel.
Living and working in San Francisco, Rex Ray is a graphic designer turned fine artist; his design work includes album covers for David Bowie and Joe Satriani, and rock posters for the Flaming Lips, R.E.M., The Cure, and Beck, amongst others.
The development of his collage work is a story I find literally awe-inspiring; he started with the simplest of paper pieces made of cutouts from newspapers and magazines, progressing to resin and wood panels using papers he custom-printed himself, and then on to intricate, large-scale canvas works . The origin lay in his frustration with his work at the time as a graphic designer:
“As the graphic design business grew, my clients got bigger and the money offered rose in direct proportion to the decline in creativity they required. The collages were my rebellion against that and an antidote to the constant computer work I was doing. I wanted to do something juvenile, mindless and rudimentarily creative. Not for exhibit. Just for my own pleasure: to get back to that spark of making something out of nothing.”
(From “Rex Ray: Art + Design”)
I first came across his work (some of the resin panels) on Jonathan Adler’s website about 5 years ago, and it was love at first sight. I quickly checked out RR’s own website and fell even more deeply in love, if that’s possible. I then bought his first book, Rex Ray: Art + Design… then the notecards … then bought and sent copies of the book to a couple of friends who I thought were in need of CBT (Colourful Beautiful Therapy). After that I bought 2 posters to frame for our new, white on white kitchen/dining area. (Frustratingly, there weren’t many prints of his work available to choose from back then – happily there is a much wider selection available now). An obsession was born.
A while later I chopped up my first copy of his book to make more framed artworks for a newly renovated shower room. And then bought myself yet another copy, so I always have my own handy, portable source of CBT available on gloomy, down days where the only antidote to the grey bleh’s is vibrant, cheering colour, and lots of it – like this:
I did actually meet the man himself, totally by chance, when on holiday to California and, purely coincidentally, there was a RR exhibition opening in San Francisco the very day before we arrived there. I couldn’t believe my luck – it felt like a dream come true. As soon as decently possible, I rushed off to Gallery 16 at 501 Third Street and immersed myself in complete and utter visual overload and delight. And then in HE walks – Rex Ray himself … again, I couldn’t believe it. I hung around for a while then finally got up the courage to introduce myself, as his biggest fan, just visiting from London. Basically I made a total fool of myself – he was gracious, but totally underwhelmed – quite understandably. I did purchase a piece, although budget constraints meant that it was actually one of the smallest he makes – but, hey, it’s an original Rex Ray! And one of my favourite dreams is that some day I’ll be back there at Gallery 16 in San Francisco buying a much, much larger piece.
Anyway, that was three years ago, and in the meantime things have moved on. As I mentioned above, there’s an awful lot more of RR’s work available to buy, in a range of sizes and formats – art prints, giclee prints, stretched canvases, and bonded to board for a minimal modern look that really suits his work (his original resin collages are on plywood blocks). Try Easyart.com, AllPosters.co.uk, or Art.co.uk, who all have a great selection and between them cover pretty much all the different options for framing and formats. If you live in, or are visiting London, the Jonathan Adler shop on Sloane Avenue usually has some of his resin panels for sale (although I’d recommend checking this out before visiting, especially if you’re making a special trip).
And you can now also find a range of RR decorated homeware and other items available from rexraystudio.com. On my current “Objects of Desire” list are the lacquer boxes and tray pictured below. If I find out about any UK stockists, I’ll let you know. And if you know of any, please do get in touch – I’d love to get the details.