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Nacht und Nebel

#232 "Nacht und Nebel"
(Exhibition Catalog Cover)
Photo collage (Archival photo), 24" x 18"
Collection: Elie Wiesel
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REGINALD CASE COLLAGES
Everson Museum of Art Exhibition


RECENT COLLAGES OF REGINALD CASE
Syracuse, NY, September 29 to November 5, 1978
Reginald Case has literally cut out a special place for his surrealist sensibilities in this brilliant series of collage works. Their deft juxtaposition and manipulation spatially of abstract and figurative elements -- figures always with decorative arts in the background superimposed in turn on rich fields of deep color are spellbinding. Seeing one small collage one craves to see the next with almost prurient expectations -- so skillful and provocative are the artist's devices to tantalize us with his bittersweet but never explicit theatrically arranged scenes. The Jewish Holocaust is prevalent as a theme in this series of pictures as the nostalgia of the artist's childhood is garnered from magazines and books and charts. These are for the forty-year-old upstate New Yorker Case, remembered images of talked about, written about horrors which took place in the distance, long ago across the seas -- but which his contemporary conscience tells him are not unimaginable or unthinkable today. His figures are always sinister, terrifyingly potent, whether they be images of Nazi storm troopers from the 1940's rotogravures or the strangely sensuous figures from modern paintings Case most admires by Balthus or Gillespie. Very opulent or refined works of craftsmanship or of nature (Oriental rugs, tiled floors, carved or painted fancy antique furniture or butterflies) serve as foils to the grim reminders of human emotion -- emotions of horror or sadism. Flower gardens around the fences of concentration camps or orchestral music that is said to have been played within them are the kind of anomalies Case seems concerned with in his poetically treated visual statements. As flowers saturated with an aroma to halt one's breath or deliciously poison brew, this series of collages reminds us of the often material loveliness of the morally grotesque or the attractive environment of the ethically corrupt. In these modest but masterfully executed and consistent works, Case proves himself to be a poignant image maker. Albeit with evocative bits of other artists' art -- he's something of a graphic Edgar Allen Poe or Pier Paulo Pasolini.

Catalog statement by
Ronald A. Kuchta
Director
Everson Museum of Art


#213 "Survivor"
Photo collage, 24" x 18"
Collection: Smithsonian Museum of American Art
Washington D.C.
STATEMENT BY THE ARTIST
I see my work relating directly to the theatre in that I compose it as if on a stage or in a play. The Figures and events are seen as characters and activities performing in a story of some sort. Drama or comedy. This allows me to partake in the fair or arena of events as a spectator or chronicler. If the work can be described as surrealistic, I think it is due to the similarity of displacement in time the theatrical event presents to the viewer. The world as viewed from a spectator's position or audience members watching the actors perform their role on stage amidst the imagery of scenery and costumes.
By theatre, I'm including films, TV, radio and the photograph. My early life as a child was greatly nourished by the fantasy provided by movies and radio. It was the forties and the 2nd world war. The horrors were lived with by the relief of the make-belieive. I think these images have remained to haunt. In working with collage, I feel I have found a medium that allows me to express these ideas of characters, costumes and events in this theatrical way I've been trying to describe. Perhaps not in the sense, necessarily, of the total play but seen as some moment, snapshot or stopped frame. I see these things, intended or not, in the works of Cornell, Margritte, Balthus, Bearden, Gwathmey and Gillespie. A sense of drama or story enacted by characters making the fantasy allowable, believable.


#217 "Totenbuch" Death book, camp records
Photo collage, 24" x 18"
Walter Murch said to me once as a student at Boston University looking out the window of his office at the bleak urban sprawl below, "It's not much, but it's all we have and poetry must be made from it."

The holocaust terrified me as a child, producing violent nightmares. The later contrast of Anne Frank's diary, one voice -- one child, seemed to provide some way into a world of events unbelievable but true. The need to deal with it became obsessive. The need to provide a reminder, a measure of possibility that the human condition or predicament might still include dignity.

Reginald Case, 1978


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