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Reginald Case

Reginald Case

Born: Watertown, N.Y., U.S.

Reginald Case was an American painter, sculptor, and collage and assemblage artist. The themes of his deeply personal work often included the Holocaust (news of which haunted him as a child) and the American popular culture of his youth, with a particular focus on the iconography of Marilyn Monroe.

Originally from Watertown, N.Y., Case received his BS from the University at Buffalo in 1959 before going on to get a BFA and MFA from Boston University, where he studied under the social realist painter Robert Gwathmey, the father of the Burchfield Penney Art Center architect, Charles Gwathmey. During his lifetime Case was represented by Allan Stone Gallery in New York City.

In addition to being in the Burchfield Penney Art Center collection and its archives, his work is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the British Museum, London; the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, N.Y.; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC; Boston Museum Of Fine Art, Boston, Mass.; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; the Jewish Museum, NYC; the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Jewish Museum of Belgium, Brussels; and Museum Dr. Guislain, Ghent, Belgium. Case was the recipient of several awards and fellowships throughout his career.

In their 1985 book The Collage Handbook, Joan and John Digby describe Case's transition from painting to collage:

"Although he studied art in a period dominated by abstract expressionism, still-life exerted a strong appeal on him, and in making still-life compositions he was drawn to taboo materials that violate traditional color harmony and taste. Almost in rebellion against the austerity of his training, he began to use flourescent paints and household enamel, metallic surfaces, fabric, trimmings, glitter, and Mylar sheeting. These he set against cut images borrowed from popular magazines and the work of earlier artists that he admired. Even the borrowings violated his training, which he shed progressively as the collages evolved. In his first explorations he would project a collage composition onto canvas and paint from it. Finally, the direct quality of the collage textures led hiim to abandon the painting altogether and turn to collage as the final expression." [1]

The Digbys further elucidate Case's highly theatrical approach to collage:

"Despite what he calls his 'outlandish' materials, the glitter and the trim, Case's collages are formal statements. Beyond the initial jolt of their intensity, they are figurative pieces that derive from American folk art with its patterned geometricities, repeating stencils, family trees, and dolls. In the naive he finds a 'wonderment' that stands in opposition to contemporary abstraction. 'Western tradition,' he argues, 'had obliterated pattern; collage gives it back.' In his collages, particularly, pattern dominates so strongly as to eliminate empty space. He rejects altogether the white background." [2]

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[1] Joan and John Digby, The Collage Handbook, 1985, p. 110. Quoted at [Accessed 5/22/2015]

[2] Ibid.