Opening reception for Foreign Object at Regina Rex. — Photo by Stephen Truax
Located on the third floor of an enormous factory-cum-studio building at 1717 Troutman St., Regina Rex is a spotless exhibition space amongst a sea of artist studios. Accidental discovery of this space is unlikely, if not impossible. During Bushwick Open Studios, I made the trek up to see a friend’s studio down the hall, and stumbled into their big and blindingly white space; their first show was tightly curated and expertly installed. There’s no furniture, there’s no plywood, even the painted edge between the gray cement floor and the wall is perfect. Like the caliber of artists they show, Regina Rex’s very existence in Bushwick is perplexing.
The nine to twelve artists behind Regina Rex (membership fluctuates), most of whom met in Chicago-based MFA programs, deliberate in weekly meetings, contribute to a secret blog, and are all close friends. They intently discuss their exhibition program and only consider artists they know only obliquely, and rigorously analyze their work and the potential contribution to the critical scene. Interestingly from a local standpoint, the shows feature none of the members of Regina Rex, offering an alternate curatorial viewpoint from Bushwick’s more regular theme of gallery owners showcasing and promoting their own work.
Regina Rex’s second offering is an airy two-person show, Foreign Object (July-August 2010), which pairs Japanese painter, Yui Kugimiya (MFA Yale 2007), with French-Canadian sculptor Fabienne Lasserre (MFA Columbia 2004), both living and working in Brooklyn. One Regina Rex curator described it as “snarky,” when the installation comes off stone-faced, cold and conceptual. Despite its myriad voices, the group limits itself to a very brief, casual statement, describing both artists’ work (which insists on total abstraction) as “exuding a delicate ooze that occasionally makes room for a cat to poke through.”
Kugimiya and Lasserre’s approaches straddle painting and sculpture, and are concerned with material transformation and subsequent surprise. Materials unfamiliar to their chosen disciplines are utilized in abundance. Kugimiya’s prestretched canvases are so heavily laden with oil and yarn, they transform into something else (prhaps this is the meaning of the "cat" reference). Out of a swirl if oil paint emerges a truly disgusting Dr. Seussean tuft of purple fuzz. Grids of yarn are broken up by piles of paint scraped into a stringy mess, creating multiple physical layers of pictorial space.
Lasserre’s sculptures are free standing — but you’re not quite sure how. In one work, a worm-like structure stands seemingly on one leg of made of a paper chain a la elementary school arts and crafts. Hand-painted planes, almost paintings in themselves, make her work strikingly pictorial and rich in color. Tiny details, like an exposed painted red dot on only one of four table-legs, only emerge on second or third inspection.
Regina Rex is an ice-cold curatorial knife to the lovey-dovey house party that is the Bushwick art scene. Their shows, especially considering their off-the-beaten-path location, have absolutely raised the bar for conceptual and curatorial rigor in the neighborhood; their first two shows have been out-of-the-park homeruns, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.