Rex Ray: Late Artist Honored With SOMA Retrospective

Rex Ray - Wall of Sound from Gallery 16

Rex Ray, Wall of Sound from Gallery 16

The late San Francisco artist Rex Ray is being honored with a twenty year retrospective of his work. Rex Ray: We Are All Made of Light will be on display at Gallery 16 in SOMA through June 30.

“Rex was one of the first artists we showed when we opened in 1993,” Gallery 16 owner Griff Williams told SF Sounds. We Are All Made of Light is the first exhibition dedicated to the artist since his passing.

Ray (1956-2015), who’s birth name was Michael Patterson, was born in Germany and raised in Colorado. Inspired by Andy Warhol to adopt the name Rex Ray, he first came to San Francisco in 1981. Ray began his career by designing the first graphics for ACT UP, the radical AIDS activist organization of the 1980s and 1990s. He also designed many guerrilla marketing flyers and posters for Queer nightclubs as well as book covers for City Lights books.

As his reputation grew, Ray amassed an impressive client list ¬†from the design, music, fashion and entertainment industries. His clients included David Bowie, Bill Graham Presents, Levi’s, Neiman Marcus, Sony Music, Warner Brothers and Apple.

The Gallery 16 exhibition features 70 pieces, some never before seen. The works include collages, prints, and large scale canvases.

Pieces like Collage on Panel With Resin (2012) pulls viewers in with it’s hypnotic, abstract colors. Other pieces convey a variety of emotions as Ray’s colors and shapes at times convey light, while other works might suggest flowers, water, or jewelry.

Featured in the exhibition is Ray’s Wall of Sound, a piece made of over five hundred cut paper collages on small sheets. First displayed in 1999, Wall of Sound was an ongoing project which grew in size between 1996 and 2004.

Rex Ray, No. 3588, 2012. Collage on panel with resin, 16 x 16 inches

Rex Ray, No. 3588, 2012. Collage on panel with resin, 16 x 16 inches

We Are All Made of Light marks the seventh solo exhibition of Ray’s work at Gallery 16. Williams said that his long professional association with Ray developed over the years into a close friendship.

“He invented a way of working as an artist that was singularly his own,” Williams said. “How many of us can say that? How many of us can ignore our critics and follow our own particular sensibility? Rex did that every day.”

We Are All Made of Light, the book contains the artists paintings, collages and graphic design work. The hardcover tome will allow Ray’s admirer’s to peruse his designs for The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, Bjork, Iggy Pop, U2, Radiohead and David Bowie. The book contains essays by Williams and Rene P. Barilleaux, Chief Curator of McNay Museum, San Antonio, among other writers.

“His exuberant canvases were so singularly his, made by a collage technique developed through trial and error over of constant work with the goal of describing his own particular sense of beauty,” said Williams. “It just so happens that many thousands of others found that it was their sense of beauty as well.”

Rex RayWilliams added that most of the pieces on display in We Are All Made of Light have already been sold.

“The outpouring of interest and collectorship around Rex’s work has increased significantly since he died,” Williams said. “There’s something bittersweet in that it sometimes takes an artist’s death to increase interest among collectors.”


More information can be found at the Gallery 16 website:

And at the Rex Ray web page:


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