artnet Asks: Reginald Sylvester II aka Slvstr

The artist says that hard times are a good starting point for creating great art.

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Reginald Sylvester II
Reginald Sylvester II before the opening of his first solo display in New York, "In search of a wonderful place." Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view. Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view. Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view. Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view. Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view. Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view. Courtesy of the artist.
Installation view. Courtesy of the artist.

Reginald Sylvester II, known in the art world as Slvstr©, is a Brooklyn-based artist who recently held his debut solo show in New York titled “In Search of a Wonderful Place” at the White Box Gallery. The show highlighted the artist’s trademark cartoonish paintings, as well as hand-drawn illustrations. Before beginning his career as a painter, a journey which started only two years ago, Slvstr was an apparel designer, producing pieces for the youth-oriented brand Rare Panther. We caught up with the artist, who told us about his inspirations and his upcoming projects.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My junior going into my senior year of high school I knew I wanted to be an artist. At that time, I wasn’t sure what type of artist I wanted to be, but I knew, through art, I would find my purpose in life as well as my true calling.

What are some things that inspire you?
Different things through the life I’ve lived have inspired me thus far. I feel like it’s always good to pull inspiration from many things and places. I’ve been inspired by my father, music, fashion, and the culture I grew up around. Art, as well as other artists, obviously have inspired me. Falling in love or feeling hurt or pain has had maybe an even greater effect. In those times, I find inspiration to overcome and channel that energy or emotion in a creative way.

Are there any media you want to explore that you haven’t yet?
Sculpture was something as a kid in art classes I disliked or would shy away from because it was ultimately challenging and intimidating. I now think sculpture is something that I am very excited to explore. The more I mature as an artist, the more I find hard times and challenges to be a very good starting point for something that can be ultimately great. In addition, I am positively anxious to see the direction and works I’ve been doing as of late in three-dimensional forms.

What are your favorite museums and/or galleries?
When attending the Academy of Art in San Francisco, the SFMOMA was one of my favorite museums to visit. Now that I live in New York, the Brooklyn Museum and the new Whitney Museum have been amazing places to go and look, as well as educate myself on art and other artists. While in New York, Gagosian has always been a place to catch some amazing shows. I recently had the opportunity to travel to London, where I got to visit both the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, which were astonishing. The Picasso Museum in Paris may have taken the cake, since I am such an admirer of the late, great artist.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Selling out my first solo show in New York was definitely a highlight. I feel though that the display in London has been my greatest highlight, even though it was so recent. I feel that the body of work I got to display was crucial for my career as an artist. The display showed growth within my work, as well as in me as an individual. The works allowed me to learn a lot more about what it truly means to be an artist, and not only did it bring about questions about my works, but about myself as well. Answers to these questions also arose, which I feel is most important of all.

If you could have dinner with any three artists, living or dead, who would you choose?
The three artists I’d choose would be Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, and KAWS. Picasso because he was a master in his own right in every style he adopted. I say this because, no matter what he painted, you knew it came from the hands of Picasso; his voice in his works was never silenced. De Kooning because he knew how to let go of all boundaries: form, color, abstraction, nothing held him back. Lastly, KAWS, because without his effect on this culture that I’m a part of and that I love so much, I could say I wouldn’t be here today. KAWS is a part of why today’s youth culture even pays attention to art.

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I’m just educating and painting, working at my craft so that I can grow. A lot of reading, working with new media, as far as oil paint and sculpture, will be taking place. I am working toward something in Japan as well. More details on that will reveal itself as the time approaches.

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