a visit with rex ray

new stuff: a visit with artist

Rex Ray

San Francisco based fine artist, whose collages, paintings and design work have been exhibited at galleries and museums, including the The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.He is also a graphic designer. He has created work for Apple, Dreamworks, Sony Music, Warner Brothers, City Lights Publishers, Matador Records, Serpent's Tail, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizzoli, Powerhouse, Mute Records and Crown Books. His package designs for David Bowie and tour posters for The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, REM, Bjork, U2, and Radiohead.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies, so those eras and the visual culture they produced had a huge effect on my sensibilities. I remember living in Germany when I was 10 years old and was fascinated by a few modern design stores. My home environment wasn’t particularly ‘contemporary,’ but I loved that stuff! I would make my own pop art paintings and hang them on the walls of my bedroom. I can’t explain the attraction, but I seemed drawn to modern art and design at a strangely early age. I was a strange child, and I think the work I was doing then is not so different from what I’m doing so (very) many years later.

I tried sketching the large works out beforehand, but found that it kind of sucked all the joy and spontaneity out of the process. It felt as though I was just following instructions. So, I now just START and let whatever happens happen. It often feels a bit like a wrestling match between the painting and me, but it keeps the process challenging and there seem to be far more surprises (and mistakes!) along the way.

Because I worked in record stores for many years and I grew up in the heyday of rock and roll, I cultivated a serious addiction to music. I have tens of thousands of records and CDs. I play all sorts of music in the studio all day and night. Loudly! I can refer to certain music for whatever inspiration I might need – free jazz and/or krautrock when I need to free myself of any inhibitions, punk rock when I need to get a lot of work done. I choose the music to suit the mood! Again, the influence of music in the work isn’t entirely conscious, but it’s certainly there!

It all started when I began making larger works. Prior to that, I was using magazines as my source material. So, there just wasn’t enough magazine paper to do large pieces. There was also an archival issue, in that magazine paper fades and falls apart over time. I also wanted to get away from people finding content in the incidental text incorporated in the work. So I liked the texture and subtle visual information contained in the magazine paper and started painting and block printing my own papers. Larger papers and in quantity! I liked the textures and handmade qualities of my own papers. It’s interesting to me that one of the most common questions I get is ‘What programs and printers do you use to create the papers?’ – when all that is done by hand!