Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review: Rex Ray Art & Design

Title:Rex Ray Art & Design
Author:Rex Ray, Douglas Coupland (Foreword), Steven Skov Holt (contributor), Michael Paglia (contributor)
Publisher:Chronicle Books
Published: October 2007
Price:$40.00 CDN

This is a beautiful book. Rex Ray is an amazing painter/collage artist whose unique colour sense and whimsical compositions are just plain fun. Which is something you don't see much of in contemporary art. Ray himself says of his early collages "they began as simple, personal exercise, a way of forgetting everything I know and getting lost". I think there is a quality of that in all of his work, where you can see he's lost himself in crazy colours and twisting shapes seeing how far he can go.

The book has a foreword by Douglas Coupland and a short essay by Michael Paglia, I much prefer Coupland's intro. Paglia's is too formal for my taste, while Coupland's is relaxed and conversational. However, the best glimpse into Ray's art and his method is an interview with him by Steven Skov Holt at the back of the book. In it Ray is very revealing about his process. I love his description of choosing colours, he talks about purposely working under at night under bad light because it would result in unusual colour combinations he wouldn't have dared use under good light, but ultimately were so wrong they were right. He goes on to describe how he will force himself to start with colours he hates and then work with them. It's fascinating to me his very deliberate process since I had assumed his vivid palette was a result of an innate colour sense, rather it seems to be something he works hard for.

One thing I don't understand is the inclusion of Ray's graphic design work in this book. It isn't as strong as his painting and collages and doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the work. That said the book is very nicely designed, I especially love the faux wood grain spine that continues into the books inside cover, referencing the vintage feel of Ray's work as well as his use of wood panel.


  1. nice book, I wasn't familiar with this artist. Thanks for sharing.

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