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Acrobat

#275 "Acrobat"
(Exhibition Catalog Cover)
Assemblage, construction, mixed media 23" x 13" x 13"
Courtesy Allan Stone, New York, NY
Case's earliest three-dimensional collages were inspired by American folk art and traditional circus imagery.

AMERICAN ARTIST MAGAZINE
Article by Brett Busang

New York artist Reginald Case was born in Watertown, New York, upstate from his present home in Peekskill. He studied first at the State University of New York at Buffalo, then in Massachusetts at Boston University, where the traditional curriculum was balanced by a visiting faculty of inspirational artists such as Walter Murch and Robert Gwathmey. After receiving an M.A. degree there in 1968, he joined the faculty at Virginia's Norfolk State University. As the artist recalls, "All through the period in Norfolk, I was painting and doing sculpture and experimenting with making large three-dimensional "realizations" of my paintings. These were very literal translations of my paintings into three dimensions; they measured five to six feet high. I created them by combining wood lathing with stretched muslin to build the forms, which I then plastered over and painted.

"Painting," he contiues, "always implied and meant that you were creating three dimensions realistically through the illusion of a two-dimensional work of art. I never felt convinced that the three-dimensional illusion was as strong as I wanted, so I made sculptures."

Case eventually became interested in surrealistic imagery, which led him to create collage-type models using projected photographs; he then translated these into oil paintings. What he learned in the process, however, was that he was most interested in the collages themselves. "The collages opened up whole areas I hadn't thought of in terms of painting, or didn't think were possible," he says, "such as appropriating materials other than the photographic image in my work -- materials like Mylar, metallic paper, trims, buttons, beads, fringe, glass -- literally, anything and everything." The variety and quantity of materials he requires are obtained with the help of his wife, Bonnie, a fashion designer.


#344 "Marilyn in Green Dress"
Assemblage, mixed media, 18" x 13" x 3"
Courtesy Allan Stone, New York, NY
"I've done a number of collages about Marilyn Monroe," the artist says. "She's universally recognizable. When you use her image, everyone knows in some way or another what you're talking about."


Case's work has always reflected his fascination with American culture, from his earlier mixed-media pieces inspired by folk art to his eventual use of imagery from the wild West and the circus. His recent pieces, shown through New York City dealer Allan Stone, are collaged, mixed-media assemblages that he says "give expression to the fascination of youth with movies, vaudeville, theater, radio, and popular magazines." Using popular cultural icons, the artist has taken the recognizable imagery of mass media and transformed it into works of art. "Having gotten a traditional education in art, grounded in a sense of art history, I had never attached a legitimacy to my interest in popular culture or show business as subject matter." Case says. "I could never find a way to imagine those subjects as part of my artwork until I began to make collages."

An early mixed-media piece, a tribute to Duke Ellington and the bandleader-dominated jazz age, embodies the whole nightclub milieu of the 1920's and early '30's with its gewgaw and glitter. In "Top Hat" (not shown), a more sophisticated work, you can almost hear a Gershwin tune as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers electrify the dance floor. These pieces and other recent works featuring stars such as Valentino, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe are summations, not only of Case's personal responses to those celebrities but of Hollywood's Golden Age -- the 1920's through the 1950's.

In addition, Case has developed a more austere vein of sculptures, taking his inspiration from identifiable architectural subjects such as the facade of New York City's Grand Central terminal building and the Empire State building. These constructions also include anonymous "houses" such as Temple, made of semiprecious stone, delicately shaped and accented with ornamental touches of patinated copper.

With its shine and sparkle, Case's work demands your attention, yet it does not require interpretation. Like the title of his recent show at the Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery in Reading, Pennsylvania, "Hollywood Without Politics," the artist's collages and constructions are offered with no strings attached. Ultimately Case is like Schwitters, Duncan, Nevelson, and Cornell -- a seeker, interested first and foremost in the purer world of creation.

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