Rex Ray Collage

RrdetailRrcollageA collage by Rex Ray is on view now at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. It is a huge piece, composed of four panels. As the museum's website says, "For Rex Ray, the joy of making and viewing art is his continuing motivation. Drawing inspiration from his acknowledged influences—the Arts and Crafts Movement, Abstract Expressionism, organic and hard-edged abstraction, pattern and textile design, and Op Art—Ray playfully combines these formalist concepts with decorators’ tips gleaned from lowbrow publications and sources of popular culture in his pursuit to create beautiful things. Gracefully bridging the gap between fine and applied art, he distinguishes himself in each realm."

Rex Ray spoke about the collage this week at the museum's book club. His personal story was interesting and he was refreshingly open in talking about his process. He said his studio didn't have space to put all 4 panels together so he was only able to look at 2 of the panels together at a time and that he was wondering what it would be like when hung together! Above is a detail of the piece plus a view to show the entire piece with some people for scale. It was impossible for me to get back far enough in the space to get a shot of the whole thing... it may be about 30 feet long.

Apparently he has done lots of experimenting to find papers that retain their strength when wet (many are printmaking papers that he prints or paints on in advance). To get the larger color areas, he works wet, laying down whole sheets of pre-painted paper, like tiles, onto canvas (stiffened by rabbit skin sizing + 5-6 coats of white primer), sponging and spraying the paper areas with water so they stay damp as he works. Then he goes in with a sharp xacto blade and cuts away the areas he doesn't want. Much of it is cut free-form, with various punches used to get the small dots/rings.

It's a very impressive piece with elegant craftsmanship. In addition to this piece, I'm especially impressed with his paper collages although I've only seen those in a book to date. I am always intrigued to see someone moving from the design field, and using those compositional skills, as they approach fine art... since that is where I'm coming from too.