Spotlight Artist: Rejin Leys
Art In FLUX in collaboration with Coronado Print Studios
spotlights artist, Rejin Leys at Halstead’s Harlem office
Each quarter, Art In FLUX presents an uptown artist at the Halstead office alongside the permanent collection of works on view, also by artists from our community. Many of the permanent works are limited edition prints of which editions are available, see attached pages.
Rejin Leys is one of many artist-collaborators with which Coronado Print Studio works. Rejin is of Haitian descent, born and raised in New York City. Her parents migrated to the US in the 1950s after fleeing the Duvalier regime. Her entire Haitian family was exiled during Papa Doc’s long rule of the country. In 1986 when his son and successor Baby Doc was overthrown, some of her relatives were able to re-immigrate back to Haiti to reclaim their roots. This puts some perspective as to why her work reflects a different visual language than one might expect to find in traditional Haitian art.
Rejin Leys is a mixed-media artist with an affinity for drawing. She creates work that embodies her upbringing and life in the United States with influences and inspirations from her Haitian background. She draws from a range of personal life experiences from training with various accomplished artists to current events and the impact of political and social events on her family and her ancestors. She was first trained as an Illustrator at Parsons School of Design where she honed her drawing skills. While she appreciated the time she spent drawing in college, she knew even before graduating that drawing to elucidate or convey others thoughts was not for her. She had her own ideas and visions to explore, and wanted to document them on paper on her own accord with her artistic vision.
Leys discovered the print shop during her senior year at Parsons, and printmaking became all she wanted to do. Upon graduating as an Illustrator, she pursued internships and work exchanges at non-profit organizations and print shops including the venerable Robert Blackburn Workshop and the Lower East Side Print Shop. Her first experiences with printmaking outside of Parsons had started on its way, and during this time, she learned most of the techniques involved in her work today. She cherishes those post-college experiences she had working with estimable artists such as Robert Blackburn, Kathy Caraccio, and Clarissa Sligh.
Following those formative years, she sought to fulfill her yearning for more fine arts training and went on to pursue an MFA at Brooklyn College in Printmaking. Her academic experiences made an impression on her, and early in her career specific socio/political issues were at the center of her work. However, as her creative interests expanded, she made the decision not to let socio/political content hold her work hostage. This realization allowed her to open up more and incorporate spontaneity and fluidity in her compositions. She continues to comment on current events in her work, but as a point of departure rather than allowing such commentary to envelop the entire picture. This development can be seen in three projects she produced in collaboration with the Coronado Print Studio between 2015 and 2017. Leys used themes such as science fiction, climate change, politics, superstition and dreams as vessels to explore the physical act of the creative process. By morphing recognizable images into abstract shapes, she leaves her imagery open to viewer interpretation.
After graduate school, Leys’ artistic practice did not include printmaking but thanks to meeting master printmaker Pepe Coronado, she has once again embraced it within her practice with a new creative lens. The two first collaborated in 2015 to create a print for Consequential Translations, an exhibition of works made by artists of Haitian and Dominican descent organized by Coronado and Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez. Leys’ piece was a screen-print titled Some Take to the Sea, which features very distinct imagery half hen, half skeleton, and a sketched border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic reminiscent of a cardiogram and rice grains. She has integrated these forms into her visual vocabulary and repertoire over the course of her career. Thus far, one of their collaborative prints created in early 2017, titled Morning Ritual was included in the exhibition Just Under 100 at the International Print Center New York (IPCNY) titled. The exhibition is IPCNY’s fifty-sixth presentation of its New Prints Program, a biannual, juried open call for prints created in the preceding twelve months. In addition, Morning Ritual is included in the Superstitions portfolio organized by Arceo Press, Chicago.
Leys’ printmaking with the Coronado Print Studio has resulted in her using more color, layering, and repetition in her work. Experimenting with printmaking from new angles has ignited in Leys’ a renewed fascination with the medium. When she first was introduced to the practice of printmaking, computers were not part of the process. Coronado inspired her with innovative ways of approaching the process. Coronado and Leys begin a project by looking at her drawings on scraps of paper. Leys then presents a vague notion of what she would like to accomplish. What follows is a scaling of her drawing, playing with size, repetition, layering, and color until the desired aesthetic is reached. The collaborative environment and results achieved while working at the Coronado Print Studio has encouraged Leys’ to expand printmaking to be an integral element of her art making. For their next project, she is contemplating a return to monotypes, a throwback to her days as an intern in NYC print shops in the 90's.
Text other side courtesy of Henone Girma
Henone Girma is an NYC based writer and curator. She recently joined the African American Policy Forum at Columbia University Law School as Executive and Productions Assistant. She is a curator at Art In FLUX and has curated multiple shows independently and in conjunction with senior curators. In 2017, she completed an Andrew W. Mellon Research position as Associate for the Arts of Global Africa department at Newark Museum.
Coronado Print Studio is a fine art printmaking workshop whose mission is to provide a space for artists to realize their concepts in collaboration with a master printer. The studio selects or invites artists from various disciplines in the fine arts to create new works in print media using traditional, contemporary, and innovative printmaking techniques. Located in El Barrio (East Harlem) New York City, the studio has a national and international outreach through its visiting artists program. www.coronadoprintstudio.com