New Exhibition Highlights Innovative Graphic Work of Queer Artist Rex Ray

San Francisco -- A new exhibition at the GLBT History Museum surveys the graphic work of internationally renowned San Francisco queer artist and designer Rex Ray (1956 - 2015). "A Picture is a Word: The Posters of Rex Ray" features posters and book covers reflecting the Bay Area music scene and LGBTQ publishing from the 1990s to the 2010s.

Curators Cydney Payton and Amy Scholder draw attention to Ray's signature graphics, first developed using a Mac Plus in the 1990s long before design applications changed the course of artwork created using digital tools. The exhibition examines Ray's use of repeating symbols and iconography appropriated from sources as varied as Andy Warhol, midcentury typography and design, gay culture and everyday objects.

"Vibrant and subversively accessible, Ray's art effortlessly mixes high and low culture, beauty and post-modern conceptualism," the curators note. "The distinctive digital style Ray developed went on to influence the next generation of artists, their clients in music and publishing, and their audiences."   

"A Picture Is a Word: The Posters of Rex Ray" opens Friday, October 12, at the GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St., San Francisco, with a public reception set for 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The curators will offer introductory remarks, and light refreshments will be served. Admission is $5.00; free for members of the GLBT Historical Society. Tickets are available online at https://bit.ly/2wwDO6K.

The exhibition runs through February 3, 2019. For more information, visit www.glbthistory.org. 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Rex Ray was born in Landstuhl, Germany, on Sept. 11, 1956. His parents named him Michael Patterson. He was raised in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he was inspired by Andy Warhol to adopt the moniker Rex Ray. Moving to San Francisco in 1981, he became best known for his innovative pop aesthetic in fine and commercial art on canvases, wood panels, album covers, paper, book jackets, murals and posters. Throughout his lifetime, Ray was a major force in the Bay Area's art, literary, LGBTQ and activist communities.

Ray attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he studied with Sam Tchakalian, Kathy Acker and Angela Davis, receiving his BFA in 1989. He was one of the first artists to use Mac-based technologies in the creative process to generate graphics and fine art. To achieve his signature style, Ray combined digital graphics with Xerography, handmade woodblock prints, newsprint and magazine images into works that reference decorative arts and midcentury modernism as well as the dada, Fluxus and pop art movements of the 20th century.

Ray's early designs include the first graphics for the San Francisco chapter of the AIDS activist group ACT UP; flyers and posters for queer nightclubs; and a hundred book covers for City Lights Books, High Risk/Serpent's Tail and other imprints. His impressive client roster in the music, fashion, entertainment and design industries includes David Bowie, The Residents, Bill Graham Presents, DreamWorks, Levis, Neiman Marcus, Sony Music, Warner Brothers and Apple. 

The artist's exhibition history includes the Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio; the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, Calif.; the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; the Kirkland Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the San Jose Museum of Art; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.

Rex Ray died in San Francisco on February 9, 2015. He was 58 years old. His estate maintains a website offering more information on his life and work at www.rexraystudio.com. For art by Ray available for purchase, the estate is represented by Gallery 16 in San Francisco; visit the gallery website at gallery16.com

Archival collections of Ray's work are preserved by the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; and the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. 

 

ABOUT THE CURATORS

Amy Scholder has been editing and publishing progressive and literary books for more than 20 years. Her visionary style has brought high visibility to her authors. She has served as editorial director of the Feminist Press, editor in chief of Seven Stories Press, United States publisher of Verso, founding co-editor of High Risk Books/Serpent's Tail, and editor at City Lights Books. Currently she serves as president of Lambda Literary and is producing the documentary feature Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen. Visit the website for the film at www.disclosurethemovie.com.

Cydney Payton founded and directed the Cydney Payton Gallery and the Payton Rule Gallery, both in Denver. She has been director and chief curator for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. She has served on panels such as Creative Capital, New York, and the Taishin Art Awards, Taiwan. She has written on art and architecture for numerous publications. Her current focus is the relationships between contemporary art and the histories of architecture.

Visit her website at www.cydneypayton.com.

  

ABOUT THE SPONSORS

"A Picture Is a Word: The Posters of Rex Ray" is sponsored by Another Planet Entertainment, Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, Gallery 16, Tim Gleason and the Estate of Rex Ray.

 

ABOUT THE GLBT HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco is an internationally renowned center for LGBTQ public history that collects, preserves and interprets the history and culture of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the communities that support them. Founded in 1985, the society maintains one of the world's largest archives of LGBTQ historical materials. Since 2011, it also has operated the GLBT History Museum in the city's Castro District; in the more seven years since it opened, nearly 130,000 people from around the world have attended exhibitions and programs at the museum.

Photo credit: Rex Ray, poster for a concert by R.E.M., Modest Mouse and The National at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley (2008). Rex Ray Graphic Art Collection, archives of the GLBT Historical Society; gift of the estate of Rex Ray.

Mark Sawchuk