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Remembering Rex Ray

Rex Ray was an artist, graphic designer, and visual innovator who was concerned with beauty in a time when many were reacting against it. A San Francisco-based talent, he channeled the city’s rebellious spirit by playing in the space between art and design while others chose sides. As his friend and writer Douglas Copland puts it, “Rex’s work inhabits that small sliver of territory where art and design don’t quite so much overlap, but rather swap identities so quickly and fluidly that one is never sure which is which.” He designed books for City Lights Booksellers, posters for a staggering array of musical acts from Radiohead to the Rolling Stones, showed his work at museums all over the world, and collaborated frequently with David Bowie. He died yesterday after a battle with cancer.

Rex Ray

Chronicle published a monograph of his work in 2007, and this news has shaken us here as friends of Rex and deep admirers of his incredible skill and generous spirit. That word—”generous”—comes up often in the recollections of those who knew him. Our Executive Publishing Design Director Sara Schneider designed his book and worked with him on a number of other projects. “When my first son was born,” Sara shared, “Rex gifted to me one of my most coveted possessions…a resin-covered collage. I was beyond touched.” And his generosity was intellectual as well. Peter Perez, Associate Marketing Director offered, “I’ll never forget our conversations talking about David Bowie and all things punkishly musical.”

Art book editor Bridget Watson Payne worked on Rex Ray: Art + Design as an editorial assistant. “I remember being quite star-struck that we were doing Rex Ray’s book,” she says. “Here was the guy whose work was hanging everywhere cool—the Slanted Door, Gallery 16, SFMOMA—and he was our very own author! Everyone at Chronicle was so excited and honored to have this luminary of the Bay Area art scene on our list, and it was made all the more special by the fact that he was such a  friendly, kind, down-to-earth person.” This awe was echoed by Sara Schneider. “Rex was beyond warm. He sparkled. I told him Chronicle would be SO flattered if he’d consider publishing with us. A wonderful partnership ensued.”

Rex was a member of the Chronicle Books family and we will miss him, as will so many others. As Creative Director Michael Carabetta puts it, “he was a local artist whose art went far beyond our 7 x 7 geographical boundaries.”

Rex Ray

Rex Ray

All images from Rex Ray: Art + Design. © 2007 Rex Ray

Kathryn Jaller

Associate Director of online strategy at Chronicle Books and art/craft/cat lady. You can follow her at @kholler.

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