Born in New Jersey in 1951, Rex studied art and animation at UCLA , eventually earning a B.A. in 1975. Two years of further training in illustration and fine art at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. led to eleven years of employment in the animation studios of Los Angeles, including Ralph Bakshi Productions, Hanna-Barbera, and Filmation Associates.
Starting in the trenches as an “in-betweener,” he worked his way up to being a background and scene layout artist for film and television projects including The Lord of the Rings (1979 version), Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and The Pink Panther. The almost simultaneous passing of his father after a long illness combined with the closing of Filmation studio in 1989 led to a decision to relocate to Albuquerque. His showing work at a Santa Fe gallery whose owner was, among other things, a writer of children’s books, led to a twelve year association with the publisher G.P.Putnam’s Sons in New York, for whom he illustrated seven and wrote two children’s picture books. During this time he also made many hundreds of presentations to elementary schools about the book illustration process, both in the states and in Europe, where he twice was a guest of the Department of Defense Dependants (DODDS) schools. Eggbert, the Slightly Cracked Egg (Tom Ross, author) is now considered a classic, has sold well over 100,000 copies, and has been in print since 1994. It has also been translated into two foreign languages. The Big Bug Ball (Dee Lillegard, author) was picked by the International Reading Association as a “children’s book choice” for 1999, and the art for The Wild Bunch (Dee Lillegard, author) was featured in the Society of Illustrators “Originals” show. From 2004-9 Rex did copious illustration work for The Alibi, including many covers and almost weekly black and white interior spots. For the last ten years he has concentrated on his own work, and has also been involved at the board level with several local civic art groups, including the Rio Grande Art Association, The New Mexico Watercolor Society, and the local chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America. His work can be seen at Warren Fine Art and Collectibles gallery in Old Town, Albuquerque.
Even in a digital age of complete data and visual information overload, it is still possible to feel the call of the ancient cave-painter. Some of us still stand, crude drawing tool in hand, and try to make meaning by making marks on a wall. Add to that archetypal drive one’s unique childhood cultural experience, and worthwhile things can happen. I was very much a product of the American suburban middle class of the 1950s and 60s, and, like local painter Santiago Perez, grew up fascinated by American animation. Hanna-Barbera, Disney, Walter Lantz, and the UPA studios, to say nothing of the many hundreds of often brilliantly drawn individual television commercials of the time were a large part of my childhood inspiration. I spent many hours copying the characters from the Flintstones and various comic books, along with some Old Master drawings.
The Art Center College of Design’s curriculum in the 1970s still included a heavy dose of actual drawing, often from the model. The “Old Master Draughtsman” tradition that had long included great teachers like Lorser Feitelson, Harry Carmean, and Vernon Wilson was fading, but I was fortunate to be there at the end. To this day, I feel it is so important to have good drawing basics. Period. It will add something vital, even when working with computers.
Art Center also had a fine art department. I didn’t much care for the process-oriented Robert Rauschenberg/Jasper Johns approach, now so dominant in university art departments. I did, however, enjoy the post-pop work of people like Claus Oldenberg. It was fun. It was still concerned with craft. And it delighted in illusion. Some of my blowups of found objects painted in a very compressed but illusionistic space in this show go back to those classes.
That shallow and well-crafted space is a fundamental tool in the work of many American painters I have always admired, from John Sloan, to the WPA artists, to figurative artists like Alan Feltus and George Tooker. None of these artists, I note, are particularly photographic.
Ultimately, eleven years of working in the animation studios of Los Angeles and later illustrating seven children’s picture books for G.P.Putnam’s Sons, along with decades of doing my own work have led me to this belief: The true challenge for a representational figurative painter is to use the visual tools one has absorbed to come up with a composition that will function as a visual poem. That is, a distillation of aspects of one’s own time that touches on both the human and the eternal, and that compels sustained viewer interest. It’s a challenge that I have come close to meeting only a few times.