Reis Studios in the news: “Bye Bye Manhattan”
Article originally appeared in Inside & Out Magazine, Summer 2006
By Valerie Plasmati
Long Island City owes a lot to our fellow borough across the river. So there’s thanking Manhattan for the exorbitant rents forcing a steady exodus of artists into our own backyard. The arts, as a result, are thriving in Long Island City and at Juvenal Reis Studios where over 100 emerging and professional artists are producing a diversity of fresh, contemporary work. Painters, sculptors, photographers, installation and video artists from sixteen countries are producing out in a supportive environment that began as a vision nearly twenty years ago.
The man behind the vision is Brazilian artist Juvenal Reis. In 1989 he came to the United States with stops in Miami and Texas before arriving in New York in 2001. He immediately set out to fulfill a long –held dream – establishing an art community where he could pursue painting and be around other artists at the same time. His timing though, couldn’t have been worse with 9/11 right around the corner. Temporarily sidelined, he resumed his search for a suitable building. Finally, after six months, Mr. Reis rented a modest 2,000 square feet in a Long Island City warehouse where he constructed five professional studios. Today, two floors occupy an impressive 45,000 square feet and house 116 studios of varying size.
Studios have 13-foot ceiling with most awash in natural light, enhancing working conditions. It’s a psychologically pleasant environment conducive to producing high-quality art. There’s Jennifer Wroblewski’s very personal, “inner narrative landscapes” that are both lyrical and sensual; Sam Still’s flat, spiral, woodprints that have evolved into sculptures, as if he laid his paintings on the floor and pulled the spirals upward; the classically-rendered paintings of blue jeans by Keith Driscoll are executed in an unconventional style of still-life and explore the different tensions of an object at rest. Also notable are Alison Owen’s delicate, poetic, pastel constructions and Noriko Ambe’s cut and layered geographic-like paper works exhibiting both a spiritual and physical depth.
All of the artists have at hand the conveniences of home, like a kitchen and library, and a dirty-room for projects requiring power tools. An experimental gallery ideal for artists and curators to present exhibitions before reaching out to major art audiences is on the premises. Besides curators, Juvenal Reis is open to gallery owners, collectors, writers, designers and architects. The public has access to open studio tours, artist’s talks, group and solo shows, internships and visiting artist programs.
The artists cite affordability as the main draw to Long Island City. No longer dealing with the financial burden of renting Manhattan studios double to triple the rent they’re now paying, they’re free to create. Since taking space at the facility, many have experienced an impact on the growth of their work. Renting in Long Island City at Juvenal Reis has brought not only peace of mind, but also a chance to fulfill the dream of living as a working artist in New York.