Abstract Expressionist Rex Ashlock (1918-1999) began studying under David Park in 1938 at the then San Francisco School of Fine Arts. From 1947-1957, he taught at the main art schools of the Bay Area. In 1957 he settled in New York, teaching at MoMA. He lived mainly in Greenwich Village, where he drank at the Cedar Bar with Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, becoming friendly with many of the abstract artists of the first generation of the New York School.
Although he exhibited at several New York galleries during the early 1960s (including Allan Stone Gallery, Bodley Gallery, and Brata Gallery), he gradually ceased to pursue the promotion they afforded. Living instead what he called “a lifestyle of extreme independence to its fullest,” he became reclusive yet always painting. In 1980, he returned to San Francisco. An old Chinese friend who was a calligrapher and philosopher gave him the name, “I chen bunán,” which means “One small grain of sand, unstained.” Here is an artist who may well have felt like a grain of sand left behind in that curious and continuous sifting between art history and art promotion while never losing his dignity in the struggle to render a vision of art, unstained.