Orgiastic New Work from an Emerging Talent in NYC

Reginald Sylvester II’s first solo show at Pace Prints in New York opens with a riotous explosion of color and form. In “Reaching for Heaven,” he captures an outpouring of kinetic energy, bottling it in balanced compositions and complex configurations, some showing off a distinctly masculine bend.

This playful body of work is more abstract, and certainly more ambitious, than the young artist’s earlier work. Sylvester’s past shows were more representative and pop-culture minded (football-headed Arnold, from the Nickelodeon show Hey, Arnold!, made an appearance). In this latest show, acrylic paint and oil sticks combine in energetic line patterns, saturating the paper surfaces from corner to corner with bold brushwork and a technicolor palette. For how busy and abstract the compositions are, though, they’re still vaguely human.

“I’m trying to take [my work] to a place where form and color are the characters,” Sylvester has said. “It’s all about pulling images from an unconscious place and putting energy in to reflect something bigger.”

The grandiose Celestial Minds Yield Knowledge aka CMYK (2016) features an array of colors: fiery yellows, hot pinks, greens, browns, and blacks. Each shape seems distinct from the next, yet wisps of paint connect and blend the disparate fragments, producing a dynamic, harmonic effect. The parts intersect and converge like a puzzle.

In another work, Form & Color (2016), a gourd-like orange object meets a green ovular shape, with a fleshy pink segment curling over the top. While the painting isn’t explicitly figurative, it’s hard to ignore vague images of male genitalia. Perhaps, then, that gourd-like member is actually an eggplant—the iPhone generation’s winking substitute.


—Anna Furman


Reginald Sylvester II: Reaching for Heaven” is on view at Pace Prints, New York, Mar. 4–Apr. 9, 2016.

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