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Rex Amos papers

 Collection
Identifier: WUA070

Scope and Contents

The Rex Amos papers are a collection of artwork, journals and diaries, biographical material, correspondence, photographs, and writings compiled by Amos. The collection also contains an oral history interview conducted with Amos in 2014. A wealth of information about Amos's life can be found in his correspondence and writings gathered largely from the mid-1950s to the 2010s. He documents his challenging childhood, his feelings about contemporary events, and the trials of friends and family's diseases, deaths, and suicides. Amos's oral history provides context to his papers and to his artwork. His correspondence reveals information about his own life as well as of the lives of those with whom he is writing, giving a unique look at life in Oregon and California through the second half of the twentieth century. There is video, newspaper, and Amos's written documentation of his care for his mother, Jean, while she had Alzheimer's disease. The Rex Amos papers represent Amos's lifetime as an artist: as an extra in Paint Your Wagon; as a jazz drummer in Portland; as an assemblage artist of materials near his home in Big Sur, California; as a collage artist creating 'gutterscapes' from scraps of used paper; to a collage artist creating chine collé for art galleries and museums in Oregon and California.

These papers also represent Amos's life as a philosopher. Amos conceived and named the philosophy of Preliminism, the theory and practice of practice. Preliminism is represented throughout Amos's papers, mentioned in correspondence, in his writing and referenced in news articles related to his work. His papers also reflect his life as a fly fisherman, clammer, and overall outdoorsman.

Along with Amos's own materials are those that he has gathered about friends and other Pacific Northwest artists. These include artwork, books, photographs, video, and writings of Amos's family and many area artists. Amos's wife, Diane, assisted in the organization and appraisal of the materials, adding context to much of the materials and many of the people featured in the papers. The Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University has a collection of Amos's artwork.

The Rex Amos papers are still undergoing processing and materials are being integrated and added to the collection with the finding aid updated periodically. Please contact the repository for more information or with questions.

Dates

  • 1885-2016
  • Majority of material found within 1956-2016

Creator

Language of Materials

The majority of the materials are in English. One book is written in Japanese.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Biographical Note

Collage artist Rex Amos was born on August 13, 1935 in Wallace, Idaho to Frenche Harland "Bud" Amos and Jean (Johnstone) Amos. Amos was raised in Burke, Idaho, moving with his parents and brother, Clinton, to Portland, Oregon around the age of seven. Amos graduated from Washington High School in 1953 and was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly thereafter. Having grown up near Mt. Hood, Amos's first choice would have been to be on the Army ski patrol, but instead he served as a machine gunner in the infantry from 1954 to 1956 because of his excellent marksmanship. Upon Amos's return from the Army, his father made two attempts on Amos's life. These assaults by his father continued a pattern of abuse, which had been prevalent throughout Amos's childhood. To break the cycle of violence that had been visited upon the family, Amos moved his mother to a flat in Southeast Portland. It was there he met his future wife, Diane Smith.

Around 1960 Amos, Diane, and his mother Jean moved to The Village, a neighborhood in Southwest Portland full of musicians, writers, and artists. There Amos’s creativity blossomed. A jazz drummer at this time, he broke the world record for marathon drumming, playing for 82 hours. When the musicians union revoked his union card for playing this unsanctioned job, Amos moved to Big Sur, California, with friend Ron Marcus. He and Marcus worked at the Big Sur Inn and lived in a shack under a bridge. It was there Amos found his passion for creating art. Having little money for supplies, Amos began creating assemblages from materials he found in the area. At the time, Amos considered his work more an expression of political and social critique than an aesthetic creation.

Prior to this, Amos had begun studying at Portland State University (PSU) majoring in philosophy and literature and was awarded his B.S. in 1969. In the midst of his study, he befriended PSU philosophy professor Dr. Graham P. Conroy. While a student, Amos conceived and named the philosophy of Preliminism in the early 1960s. He then gave Preliminism to Conroy because Conroy deemed the giving of philosophy impossible.

After moving to a large house behind a dry cleaners on S.W. 11th and Montgomery near Portland State, Amos was able to obtain a dump license which made it possible for him to collect materials for assemblages. On a trip to New York City with friend Greg Stone in 1961, Amos visited the Museum of Modern Art and saw “The Art of Assemblage” exhibit where he was amazed to discover that he had been creating works similar to those on display.

When the city stopped issuing dump licenses, Amos turned to paper as a medium of expression. He gained much of his artistic training and inspiration through practice and by studying other artists. Meeting the painter Matt Glavin, who was teaching at UC Berkeley, transformed Amos’s vision. Glavin introduced him to the process of chine collé and made it possible for him to use the facilities at Magnolia Editions. Amos has continued to work in assemblage as well as in various forms of collage.

A signature of Amos's collages are the images he uses, which are meticulously cut from published materials using scissors intended for eye surgery - a process that has earned him the moniker "The Cutter." Amos then carefully selects from thousands of these images to create detailed collages infused with literary, historical, religious, and philosophical allusions. Amos's collages have been featured in galleries and museums such as the Portland Art Museum, Magnolia Editions, the Corvallis Art Center, the 12x16 Gallery, and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Many of these are in the style of chine collé, which is a combination of collage and print-making techniques.

After more than 50 years in Portland, Amos and Diane, a retired secondary school English teacher, now live in Cannon Beach, Oregon. For more information on Amos, visit http://webpages.charter.net/direx

Extent

36.5 Linear Feet (20 boxes, 20 oversize boxes)

Overview

The Rex Amos papers comprise artwork, journals and diaries, correspondence, and writings by and about the artist Rex Amos. Also included are materials and correspondence by and about multiple Pacific Northwest artists including Sandy Brooke, Matt Glavin, and Peter Voulkos as well as materials documenting Amos's extended family.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged into nine series: I. Art; II. Books; III. Correspondence; IV. Email; V. Family and Friends; VI. Oral History; VII. Philosophy; VIII. Writing; and IX. Hats. Series III and V are further arranged into subseries to reflect the correspondent or subject of the material.

Materials physically retain original order. Order has been altered within this finding aid in order to increase findability of the materials. You will find materials within the physical collection ordered in their original way. Given the intertwining nature of these papers, there is some overlap between series and subseries. For example, while the majority of the documentation on Preliminism is found in Series VII, discussion of Preliminism can also be found throughout Rex's writing and correspondence with Graham Conroy.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Rex Amos, 2012-2017.

Accruals

Additions to this collection are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Access to e-mail, digital photographs, video, and audio files is available in the Archives Reading Room.

Related Materials

Related collections include the Jack Eyerly papers, the Dorathy Bruce Farr papers, and the Henk Pander papers.

Creator

Title
Guide to the Rex Amos papers, 1885-2016
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid processed by Ashley Toutain.
Date
© 2014
Description rules
DACS
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections Collection Descriptions

Contact:
Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 United States