Rex Ray: Orange Sunshine

Rex Ray is known to anyone who follows pop culture – celebrated graphic artist, illustrator, package and poster designer. But did you know he also creates magical retro-future pop art collages that you can see close-up and in-person right now at Conduit Gallery on Hi Line Drive?

One of the best Dallas shows of last summer was Esteban Vicente at the Meadows Museum. Vicente is the artist that almost singlehandedly bulldozed collage into the fine art world in the 1940s and 50s. I certainly didn’t expect to find his mid-century modern doppelganger at the Conduit Gallery, but Rex Ray is just that.

Rex Ray: Orange Sunshine is a pop art explosion of color reminiscent of Goldie Hawn and Laugh-In, I Dream of Jeannie, beaded curtain doorways, and those vintage glass Christmas tree ornaments that we saw once a year.  These are some of the happiest pieces you’ll see this summer – vibrant yellow, orange, violet, teal, hot pink and neon lime green joy.

Rex paints, prints, rolls, airbrushes, and prepares all the paper used in his collages, just like Vicente did.  Vicente tore his paper, but Rex cuts his - so precisely that photographs of the works just can’t do his technical handicraft justice.  He has a special love for wood grain rollers – the pattern appears in many of his collages.

The large pieces, which range from 5 feet to 7 feet square, start with that fine gray-green Belgian linen painted a flat color.  The custom paper shapes, cut super precisely with an exacto knife, are affixed – sometimes 5 layers thick.

Rex’s smaller collages are composed on wood panels and covered with a thick glossy coat of epoxy resin.  I love the shiny candy layer – it plays wonderfully with his clean aesthetic, but it does obliterate some of the process revelation that is so interesting close up.

Botanicals and flower shapes, exotic “Aladdin and the Arabian Nights” bottles and hanging beads, and Christmas tree ornaments are some of the playful themes that dominate the large collages.

Prednisportata is one of the best of this group.  Its black, violet, orange and lime green palette is a sophisticated update to Flower Power neon.  In this tableau, Ray has created a colorful display of Genie bottles with fancy stoppers in the foreground and a huge fireworks flower in the background.  Just to the right of center is (inexplicably) a stalk of corn.

Untitled is a delightfully graphic reminder of those wonderful fragile glass Christmas tree ornaments our mothers let us hang carefully on the tree every year.  One can imagine mid-century Niemann Marcus shopping bags printed with these designs in festive late 50s design spirit.

Gabriel Dawe: Blinding Pain and Jill Storthz: New Woodcuts are notable shows concurrently at the Conduit Gallery through the summer.