Roberts Projects is pleased to present T-1000, Reginald Sylvester II’s first solo exhibition at the gallery featuring new and interconnected sculpture and painting. Sylvester II is an artist whose works have the sensibility of a painter irrespective of the material or dimensional form they take, encouraging medium to guide him to concept. In this series, he transcends the traditional canvas, discovering novel methods of creative process through experimentation with and investigation into physical, industrial, and spiritual engagements with rubber, steel, and aluminum—leading him to uncover a matrix of pop-culture allegories, complex material histories, and reckonings with biblical and nuclear dystopias.
T-1000 is a reference to the android assassin in James Cameron’s 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The film’s antagonist is a shapeshifting, artificially-intelligent alloy that can metamorphose between solid and liquid states to resemble humans and inanimate objects. Inhabiting the body of a policeman, T-1000 is programmed to travel from the future to assassinate John Connors, a latter-day Christ figure who will become a freedom fighter for humans surviving an AI apocalypse. Mesmerizing and terrifying in its fluid form, Sylvester II poses T-1000 as a symbol for omnipresent oppressive systems throughout the world. Incorporating iridescent palettes resembling machinery, technology, and weapons, he probes paint and steel to reveal the terrors of authoritarian bodies whose omniscient surveillance and violence suppress and harm liberators of social and racial justice.
Sylvester II arrived at this theoretical framework by observing oxidized textures and surfaces in the industrial zone surrounding his studio, manipulating found construction materials like rolled sheets of rubber to emulate metal. Reshaping the canvas through a vocabulary of manufactory, he stretches the rubber across a chrome substrate, allows the armature to emerge as the rubber buckles, rubs acrylic paint across the textured surface using a gloved hand, then adheres recycled studio debris and military tarp to the canvas in relief—in certain pieces, puncturing the rubber and carving out vertical incisions. These large-scale works impede space and impose on audience, conjuring associations with architects and artists like Tadao Ando, Jack Whitten, Richard Serra, and Lucio Fontana, whose minimalist creations do not refuse figuration so much as they test the limits of how pure material can convey intricate societal ideals and systems.
A painter with the transformative vision of an alchemist, Sylvester II conceived of these works as offerings—preserving scraps from the carved rubber as sacramental relics of his artistic practice. He scaled these cut-outs into fourteen-foot sculptures—pillars reminiscent of the twelve gates to heaven in the Bible’s Book of Revelations. Before casting these colossal molds in steel, he splayed the cut-outs on the floor to observe them. In a renewed cycle of discovery with a familiar material, he recognized that the rubber form was reminiscent of the floorplans from eighteenth and nineteenth-century slave ships. This symbol catalyzed an investigation into the colonial history of industrial rubber and the ancestral trauma of enslaved people. Rested vertically in wood plinths, Sylvester II’s christened gates bless the ascended souls of those who jumped from slave ships to their deaths to escape the perils of the Transatlantic slave trade.
While these sculptures effuse divine departure, they simultaneously possess the rusted patina of having weathered nuclear fallout—like the offering paintings, serving as an austere portal into a racial, spiritual, and technological reckoning. Recalling Audre Lorde’s enduring declaration, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” his works contemplate how simple materials are charged social mechanisms. For Sylvester II, hope will always exist, but it will likely augment into resilience; his work is a depiction of purgatory—an Afrofuturistic incarnation of apocalyptic aesthetic.
About the Artist
Reginald Sylvester II (b. 1987, Jacksonville, NC; based in Brooklyn, NY) spent his formative years in San Francisco, CA. Working predominantly in abstraction, Sylvester II makes large-scale paintings and sculptures which often include found objects. In March 2023, Sylvester II opened Reginald Sylvester II: Green Gate at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO—his second institutional solo exhibition in North America. The show was preceded by Painter’s Refuge: A Way of Life (2022) at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Charlotte, NC. Recent group exhibitions include Black Abstractionists: From Then ‘til Now, curated by Dexter Wimberly, Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas, TX, (2022), and 100 Years, Gagosian and Jeffery Deitch, Miami, FL, (2022). Recent solo exhibitions include CUTS, Maximillian William, London, England (2022); Feelin’ Blue, The Arts Club, London, England (2022); With the End in Mind, Maximillian William, London, England (2021); NEMESIS, Maximillian William, London, England (2019) and The Rise and Fall of a People, Fondazione Stelline, Milan, Italy (2017).
Monographic publications by Sylvester II include Painter’s Refuge: A Way of Life (2022), Pacific and the Harvey B. Gantt Center; With the End in Mind (2021), InOtherWords, Maximillian William and Natchez; NEMESIS (2021), Maximillian William. Sylvester II is also featured in Prime: Art's Next Generation (2022), Phaidon. Sylvester II’s work is held in public collections including Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC; Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Charlotte, NC; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL; Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Miami, FL; Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NC; Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton, UK; Spazio 1, Lugano, Switzerland; and Fondazione Stelline, Milan, Italy.
For additional information regarding Reginald Sylvester II, please contact Mary Skarbek, Senior Director at 1.323.549.0223 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
For press inquiries, please contact Hannah Gottlieb-Graham, ALMA Communications, email@example.com.