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Remembering San Francisco Artist Rex Ray

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Artist and San Francisco cultural icon, Rex Ray died on February 9 following a long bout with lymphoma. The 58 year-old Ray was a graphic designer and fine artist who made his name designing psychedelic, ’60s-inspired concert posters and album covers for such legendary acts as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, and others. In an obituary on the Gallery 16 website (where Ray showed his work), owner Griff Williams said:

At a very early age, Rex knew that art-making was his passion. And for the rest of his life he worked everyday at fine tuning his craft. Work was important to Rex–The work of making art, the work of relying on his imagination and accepting the consequences. He invented a way of working as an artist that was singularly his own. How many of us can say that? How many of us can ignore our critics and truly follow our own particular sensibility? Rex did that everyday. Not without self doubt, he had that for sure. Not without failure, he was frank about that as well. But, he lived his life and made his work with grace.

"Rolling Stones Tour Poster" by Rex Ray (via Rex Ray Facebook)

Our own Executive Creative Director Bianca Kosoy shares her thoughts about Ray’s passing below:

I was first introduced to Rex Ray at a gallery opening in SOMA back in the late ’90s. It was in the middle of the dot-com boom, and I had just moved to SOMA (then known as the Media Gulch) and met my neighbor’s mother — Michael Martin who represented Rex at the time. Even as it was happening, everyone knew it was a historic time in San Francisco’s colorful history.

Rex was a San Francisco-based graphic designer whose career I followed closely; his concert posters for iconic artists like David Bowie, Beck, the Rolling Stones, REM, Radiohead and U2 were filled with psychedelic modernism crossed with intricate mid-century modern patterns transformed the visual landscape. He courageously blurred the line between fine art and design, digital and handmade. His multi-media collages and large scale canvas paintings were both disciplined and playful, pop-inspired, contemporary and vividly colorful. And, perhaps unintentionally, inherently telling the story of the unfolding digital era.

Seeing his work, transformed the way I approached design and fueled a lifelong passion for mixing contemporary with mid-century modern. He created a cohesive narrative with his aesthetic across all media, from fluidly lining the walls of the world’s most revered museums and galleries, to hanging in hip restaurants and bars. Not to mention inspiring designers the likes of Jonathan Adler along the way. For me, he is one of the most important artists of the 21st century and had a personal influence on my (and countless others’) creative vision.

"Fuscopanaria" by Rex Ray (via RexRay.com)

In a statement on his website, Jonathan Adler said:

Rex is a member of my pantheon of creative Gods, people like Alexander Girard, Charley Harper, Charles Eames, Bonnie Cashin, who had the gift of uniaue vision and exceptional talent.

I was in awe of him and I will miss him.

"Nelastrus" by Rex Ray (via RexRay.com)

Share your memories and your Rex Ray-inspired works in the comments below.

[Header image via Rex Ray Facebook]

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