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Better Living

Artist Reginald Sylvester II reflects on the evolving meaning of space.

Words by Reginald Sylvester II
Photography by Andrés Navarro

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Reginald Sylvester II at his studio in Mexico City

Life thus far has made me feel as if it’s a journey of simplifying the complexities that we deal with inward and out. How do we feed and deal with the space within? And how is that conducive to the space we take up and inhabit on this earth?

Space is something I think about often as I continue to grow as an artist and as a human being. Evolving ones space in order to change the way we feel and interact with the environments around us. Not just in a physical sense but as well mentally and spiritually.

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Reginald’s original work, Tragedy of Emanuel, 2015 in a client’s home as featured on his Instagram

This year I really want to expound upon renewed ideals of necessity, functionality, presence, and feeling within the way I live and travel. I feel that this will bring a sense of stability and awareness within myself. In turn, this will inspire the way that I create, through process as well as through material.

Space should be sound in the sense that you allow it to do what it naturally does, which is breathe. Only adding what is necessary. Not just in the sense of functional items, but also with elements that allow space to function in presence and feeling. A plant, a sculpture, a ceramic, a painting, etc.

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Work in progress at the Artist’s Mexico City Studio

I see these things evolving throughout my space as I evolve as a person. We evolve each day. Slightly changing without noticing from one interaction or experience to the next.

For me, as those moments affect me, they also change the way I think, dress, live, and approach things creatively. That also has to reflect within the spaces that I inhabit on a daily basis whether live or work. With this in mind, I want to fully create my surroundings. Also having the want to be in control of all elements that make up a space concerning temperature, light, smell, and sound.

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The artist’s home apartment in New York, June 2019, prior to relocating to Mexico City. / The artist’s Brooklyn studio, August 2019.

Buying a home this year will allow me to curate each element within a room — whether I design or build things myself concerning furniture, paintings, or pottery or whether I collect from contemporaries creating within the times of past and present. Not treating a home as a conventional space but as one that will be nutritious to all aspects of me.

I feel that a non-conventional home is so imperative for me as an artist. Having a home that can act as my safe haven and resting place, it also should continually feed my creativity. Continually feed my thinking.

The thought of a bed in the midst of a room full of paintings in a museum. Or the vision of a living room amongst an indoor sculpture garden. These thoughts drive me to cultivate a space that will forever drive me to create, alter, and change. Monthly rehangs within my home, or a guest room dedicated to ceramics and works on paper. How can these spaces fulfill their purpose while being something entirely different?

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The artist’s materials, Brooklyn Studio, 2019

Being that I travel quite a bit, it’s hard to find spaces that do this as far as living. Being that spaces are already curated by the owner. Some feel that luxury (staying at a fancy hotel or Airbnb) automatically gives way to the quality of design, aesthetic, and functionality of a space. I don’t find that necessarily true. I’ve been staying in Mexico City for two and a half months now. During my travels, I’ve looked to compromise — seeking one or two elements within a particular space that is pleasing enough for me to inhabit for a long period of time. I also analyze spaces to see what could work and couldn’t — collecting thoughts for when I move into my new home.

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Reginald outside his Mexico City artist studio

A work space for me has to be spacious and nearly empty due to exerted chaos while making, needing room to move and space things out so that I can see my thinking. Light is extremely important, natural light. I feel that these particular elements are important.

A space not so cluttered allows clearer thoughts.

The need for natural light… there’s something about its play of outdoor energy being reflected in indoor spaces that moves me. That, in turn, can allow me to live at my best for the time being. Living here in Mexico City has definitely exorcised my use and relation to color within my work. It has also given me a taste of what life could be like when a bit more detached. This has been extremely helpful for my thoughts. This change of cultural and historical landscape has furthered my awareness and the importance of heritage. A people and their collectiveness and how they deal with each other — you get a pretty good sense of that here. By not having much, you could still lead a life just as fruitful and purposeful than the next. That principal in turn aligns with how I want to treat space: not having much yet still exuding extreme amounts of feeling, presence and purpose.

Editor's Note: Goodee congratulates Reginald on the launch of NEMESIS , a catalog documenting the process behind his NEMESIS exhibition.

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About Reginald Sylvester II

Reginald Sylvester II creates works that trigger provoking and often disconcerting questions surrounding topics such as race, sexuality, religion and spirituality. He approaches these through deconstructed, dramatised forms, which have their foundation in his earlier figurative works, remnants of which still echo through the work’s evolved abstraction.

Sylvester II was born in Jacksonville (North Carolina) in 1987. He grew up in Oakland, California and attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, studying graphic design. Reginald lives and works in New York.

Sylvester II currently has a solo presentation, entitled ‘NEMESIS’ of new works at Maximillian William in London, the inaugural exhibition of the gallery’s space in Fitzrovia.