Meet Ray Rice: The Most Prolific Mosaicist You've Never Heard Of

Ray Rice
Ray Rice at work in his Corte Madera studio in 1955, creating a mosaic-covered sculpture of a bird. Photo by Ernie Braun

If Northern California artist Ray Rice did not become a household name during his long and prolific career, it wasn't for lack of material. A member of California's Arts and Architecture Movement of the mid-century, Rice is best known for his myriad grand mosaics – when he's known at all.

The new, winter issue of CA-Modern magazine aims to chip away at that lack of notoriety with a profile of the under-sung artist, who retreated from a burgeoning career making mosaics for commercial architects.

Rice once said those kinds of jobs allowed him to "work at a truly monumental scale." But he became uncomfortable with the commercialism associated with the commissions that paid him handsomely, and later in life he withdrew to Mendocino.

As CA-Modern features editor David Weinstein points out in his story, Rice's work appears in no major museums and was not included in the recent Pacific Standard Time exhibits. Much of it remains in private collections, mostly of his family members.

However, Rice has recently entered the public consciousness again with the discovery of a huge mural in Sausalito on which he collaborated. The two-story tile mosaic, covered in wood siding in the 1970s, spells out "Bank of America Sausalito Cal" in maritime signal flags.

While the mural is unnamed and unsigned, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Donn Emmons, partner of the bank's architect William Wurster, commissioned Rice to create it for the building that opened in 1956. Rice's daughter, Felicia Rice, told the Eichler Network it was "nothing like my dad's style," but that he had likely worked as a consultant to Wurster's firm in assembling the piece.

With this newly unearthed work engendering some fresh interest in mid-century mosaics and the artists behind them, Weinstein's profile of Rice will help feed the curiosity of art lovers interested in one of the more quietly prolific legacies of the Bay Area mid-century scene.


Sacred Art
A mosaic mural from a series Rice created for the Ford Motor Company in 1957, courtesy of Felicia Rice and Iana Porter. Click on the image to go to CA-Modern's profile of Rice entitled 'Sacred Art.'