Rex Ray on Display

Local documentarian and former gallerist Joshua Hassel goes back a long way with artist Rex Ray, whose beautiful works have most recently been seen at MCA Denver and T Gallery. Ray, who grew up in Colorado Springs before moving on to San Francisco, used to show work at Hassel’s now-defunct gallery, where the filmmaker first glommed onto the artist’s fascinating character.

“He’s a very charismatic guy,” Hassel says. “What’s so interesting about this work is that he crosses over from graphic art to the fine-art world. That’s a forbidden thing in the art world; you’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to either be a designer or a fine artist. And it’s amazing. It’s beautiful work, though in the fine-art world, work is not supposed to be beautiful.

“He filters a lot of what Miró and Matisse did, but updates it through a modern, ’50s lens,” Hassel adds. Ray’s gorgeous paintings and other creations, from rock posters to wallpaper designs, are more than enough testament to that. With that in mind, Hassel followed the artist over two years, carefully capturing what makes Ray so interesting, in hopes of creating a non-elitist artist portrait. “It ends up being Rex retelling his story — how he became an artist,” Hassel explains.

The resulting PBS documentary, Rex Ray: How to Make a Rex Ray, was made for KBDI-TV/Channel 12 and will air on the station at the end of the month. But you can preview it today — in the shadow of Ray’s actual work — at 3 p.m. at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, where one of his large-scale paintings is currently hanging (it comes down tomorrow). The screening is free with museum admission; for details, go to or call 303-298-7554.
Sun., Jan. 3, 3 p.m., 2010

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd

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