After graduate school, Leys’ artistic practice did not involve printmaking but thanks to meeting master printmaker Pepe Coronado she has welcomed it in her projects anew. The two first collaborated at Coronado Print Studio in 2015 to create a print for an exhibition of works made by artists of Haitian and Dominican descent. The show was titled Consequential Translations and was organized by Pepe Coronado and Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez. Leys’ piece that was included in the exhibit was a screenprint titled Some Take to the Sea which features very distinct imagery: half a hen, half a skeleton, a drawn border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic reminiscent of a cardiogram and rice grains.
She has integrated these forms into her visual vocabulary and repertoire over the course of her career. Thus far one of their collaborative prints created in early 2017, titled Morning Ritual was part of a show at the International Print Center New York titled Just Under 100. The exhibition is IPCNY’s fifty-sixth presentation of its New Prints Program, a biannual, juried open call for prints created in the preceding twelve months. In addition,
Morning Ritual is included in the Superstitions portfolio organized by Arceo Press, Chicago.
Leys’ printmaking with the Coronado Print Studio has resulted in her using more color, layering, and repetition in her work. Experimenting with printmaking from new angles has ignited in Leys’ a renewed fascination with the medium. When she first was introduced to it, computers were not part of the process, and Coronado was able to present her with innovative ways of approaching the printmaking process. During their collaborations, the two
artists/printmakers start working by looking at her drawings on scraps of paper.
Rejin Leys is one of many artist-collaborators that the Coronado Print Studio works with. Born and raised in New York City, Rejin is of Haitian descent. Her parents migrated to the US in the 1950s after fleeing the Duvalier regime. Her entire Haitian roots were exiled during Papa Doc’s long rule of the country. In 1986 when his son and successor Baby Doc was overthrown, some of her relatives were able to re-immigrate back to Haiti to reclaim their roots there. This perhaps explains why her work reflects a different visual language than
one might expect to find in traditional Haitian art.
Leys, a mixed-media artist with an affinity for drawing creates work that embodies her upbringing and life in the U.S. Her influences and inspirations include her Haitian background but also a range of experiences she’s had throughout her life; from training with various accomplished artists to current events and everything in between. She was first trained as an Illustrator at Parsons School of Design where she honed her drawing skills. While she
appreciated the time she spent drawing in college, she knew even before graduating that drawing to elucidate or convey others thoughts was not for her. She had her own ideas and visions to explore, and wanted to engage them on paper on her own accord.
She discovered the printshop during her senior year at Parsons, and printmaking became all she wanted to do. Upon graduating as an Illustrator, she pursued internships and work exchanges at local non-profits and print shops such as Robert Blackburn Workshop and the Lower East Side Printshop. Her first experiences with printmaking outside of Parsons started this way, and she recognizes that during that time is when she learned most of the techniques involved in her work today. She cherishes those post-college experiences she
had working with estimable artists such as Robert Blackburn, Kathy Caraccio, and Clarissa Sligh.
Following those formative years, she sought to fulfill her yearning for more fine arts training and decided to pursue an MFA at Brooklyn College in Printmaking. Her academic experiences made an impression on her, and early in her career specific socio/political issues were at the center of her work. Though, as her creative interests expanded, she made the decision not to let socio/political content hold her work hostage. This realization allowed her to open up more and incorporate spontaneity and fluidity in her compositions. She continues to comment on current events in her work; but only as a point of departure rather than allowing such commentary to envelop the entire picture. This development can be seen in three projects she collaborated with the Coronado Print Studio on between 2015 and 2017. Themes such as science fiction, climate change, politics, superstition and dreams were used as vessels to explore the physical act of the creative process. By morphing recognizable
images into abstract shapes, she leaves her imagery open to viewer interpretation.
and her presenting a vague notion of what she would like to accomplish. What follows is a scaling of her drawing, playing with size, repetition, layering, and color until the desired aesthetic is reached. The collaborative environment and results achieved while working at the Coronado Print Studio has inspired Leys’ to create more prints. For their next project she is contemplating a return to working on monotypes, just as she had as an intern in NYC printshops in the 90's.
-Written by Henone Girma in collaboration with Rejin Leys and Coronado Print Studio.
Henone Girma is an NYC based writer and curator. She has recently worked as the Andrew W. Mellon Research Associate for the Arts of Global Africa department at Newark Museum. Currently, she works as Administrative and Curatorial Assistant at Art in Flux Harlem. She is co-curator of the grow exhibition Songs of Freedom, where Rejin Leys is one of the featured artists.
Rejin Leys is a mixed media artist and paper maker based in New York, whose work has been exhibited at such venues as Centro Cultural de España, Santo Domingo, DR; Kentler International Drawing Space, NY; Queens Museum, NY; and Les Ateliers J.R. Jerome, PaP, Haiti. Her work is in the collections of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Yale University, and Rutgers University Caribbean Studies Department, and she is a recipient of a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.