Back in June, a group of Brooklyn-based artists opened Regina Rex, a new art space just over the border into Ridgewood at 1717 Troutman. We asked them a few questions about the difference between Regina Rex the group of artists, and Regina Rex the artist-run gallery, and where each one came from.
The L: I understand that most of you came out of fine arts programs in Chicago. What attracted you to Brooklyn, as opposed to another city or staying in Chicago?
Regina Rex: Many of us attended graduate school in Chicago, but we also came out of fine art programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis and Brooklyn. There are probably thirteen different answers to why we all arrived in Brooklyn, but most of our reasons are probably along the same lines that any other artist moves to New York—there’s a community of people that you know that has moved here before you and maybe they’ve told you about an apartment for rent, studio space or job that made it seem manageable.
Some of us also lived here prior to grad school or grew up here, so returning to New York was a natural next step after school. While the high-density of artists working in Brooklyn can feel overwhelming at times, it’s also what makes a project like Regina Rex possible and so exciting. It’s an opportunity to take this huge mass and carve out a context that is not beholden to the social and commercial pressures of the greater art world.
How does the collective curatorial process work? Do you take turns selecting artists? Do you take portfolio submissions? Does each show emerge from a continuous dialog between members?
Sometimes one person will present an idea for a show and others will help in developing the premise or organizing the exhibition. Other times we start with one artist we’re all interested in and work with the group to find good pairings. While one or two people may take the lead on organizing a particular show, everyone tends to pitch in however they can—from attending studio visits and hanging the show to seeking out writing/poetry to accompany themes in the exhibition. We meet once a week and discuss all matters relating to Regina Rex, including ideas for future shows, but the conversations are ongoing and often extend outside of the meetings as well. Primarily, we’re all dedicated to presenting work that we believe in, but also in creating a supportive space for each other to explore ideas through discussions and exhibitions. We do not accept portfolio submissions.
What made you decide to start an exhibition space? Do you consider artistic and curatorial practice to be mutually reinforcing and complementary, or categorically different activities?
Regina Rex spawned from three things: an understanding that a strong, supportive community is essential to any art practice today; a desire to build an inviting context for artists to exhibit their work; and to have a space to develop ideas as an extension of all of our independent studio practices. In all of these ways, Regina Rex complements and enriches each of our individual efforts as artists.
Do you show works by the founders/members of Regina Rex?
While showing our own work is not our primary motive, it is also not a steadfast rule. The current exhibition, Hand’s Tide, is a group show that includes work by two members of Regina Rex that everyone agreed fit conceptually with show. If we think someone in the group has work that is essential to a show, we include it. We are all genuinely interested in each other’s work and do studio visits within the group regularly, but, ultimately we are more interested in learning about new and unfamiliar work and giving opportunities to other artists in order to expand the dialogue beyond our circle.
Is Regina Rex just the name of the gallery, or also the name of the group? Can the two even be distinguished? How did you select that name?
Although people often think Regina Rex is in Brooklyn, it’s actually located in Queens, just across Cypress Avenue which is the (almost negligible) border between Brooklyn and Queens—Kings County and Queens County. Regina Rex is Latin for “Queen King.” This borderline has been redrawn many times throughout history and was once marked by the controversial “arbitration rock” that can now be found at the Onderdonk House—one of the oldest structures in New York City located just around the corner from Regina Rex.
Although the name grew out of the location, it also serves as a name for the group, and anything we work on outside of the space, such as the recent publication of artist writings from Possible Press.
Regina Rex’s current exhibition, Hand’s Tide, hangs through October 17, and on October 22, when all the Bushwick-Ridgewood galleries will be open late, Megan Pflug opens her exhibition there, Go Outside, with a dance performance.