Prolonged Perception: Recent Paintings by Doug Reina

Back over there. Around that corner. Behind the fence. Right out back. Out of sight. Here are obscure, ordinary spaces of contemporary life otherwise shielded from view. In Green Door Loading Dock, the light blue front end of a trailer samples the bright sun like an outstretched tongue waiting for a drop of rain. Just beyond it, the yawning face of a loading dock bathes in afternoon light, dazzling flashes of hard edges all around – plaster, metal stripping, iridescent, wandering circuitry, and a solitary, plucky traffic cone. Darkness appears below. Black asphalt so dark it falls away. Gone.A painter of austere, brooding compositions, Doug Reina has a miraculous gift for finding a dream-like emptiness in back streets, shacks, loading docks, boat docks, and overgrown backyards. Each painting begins black. Color and form are added over a black ground, lifting them out of the picture plane. Colors blast forth. There are broad flashes of light. The black ground remains visible everywhere. It pops out between brushstrokes or creates a colossal abyss below buildings, pulling the rug out from underneath them. There is a rootlessness here. Reina paints over the black only when he vividly recalls the form, solely remembering the bright bits. He has us wandering in some lucid dream, half remembered; one which teeters between terror and grace, amid dark voids and divine light. He leads us into a space of sharp contrasts, one in which our eye fragments into the surface it contemplates. All of the various loading docks, buildings, chairs, and shacks in Reina’s works have no inner reality. The artist is finding a reality, one that mimics the patterns that would be found in abstraction. Doug Reina’s role is to select rather than to affirm every detail—to observe, to watch, to be attentive to things. Here, the artist has to attach himself to the objects he perceives. Examining a bright chair, a green door, or a jagged, thin shadow, he dissolves and becomes part of the external landscape. Reina states: “we’re always changing, we’re always getting older, ...we’re all in flux here.And so sometimes when I see something that is really cool but is beat to hell – an old rusty car or an old cottage or something like that – it could be a stand-in for us, for our experience, a reminder of us.” These paintings are visual metonyms, symbolic images used to make reference to something with more extensive, genuine implications. Colossal forms shielded from view – a trailer, a building – suspended over a dark abyss. Somewhere, life hangs in the balance.Reina’s sharp, arresting, emergent spaces appear effortlessly laidback, superbly elegant. In them, Reina recovers the sensation of life, the slippage of memory, and captures quick moments in which everything becomes clear. His works exist to make us feel more, offering the present in all its chaotic splendor.

Edward M. Puchner
Gallery North

Setauket, NY

Prolonged Perception: Recent Paintings by Doug Reina

Hamptons Life

Aug 15, 2017 12:20 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
Doug Reina Turns Unremarkable Scenes Into Wonderfully Satisfying Images
By Art Donovan

Artist Doug Reina, based in Setauket, has years of experience as both a noted plein air and studio painter and also as a commercial artist. At one time, he was a serious cartoonist with his work published in The New Yorker magazine and King Features Syndicate. From creating art for publications to gallery exhibitions and being featured in venues such as the Heckscher Museum of Art, Mr. Reina has an impressive curriculum vitae. Such is the variegated path of artists with abilities and imagination.

In 2014, those artistic abilities won Mr. Reina the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Grant. But receiving an award like that can be a double-edged sword for an artist. They may feel obligated to creatively “freeze up” and repeat the mode and style of the works that won them the award—or they may venture into new and unfamiliar artistic areas before they’re ready. However, Mr. Reina is a patient man and he didn’t let the award derail him from the creative tempo he was engaged in. He used the award as it was intended and it financed creation of a proper art studio. But since that time, his approach has been keenly morphing into a new style. It is that very style that I found so impressive.

Rendering his poetic and seemingly serene images of life by the shore with an impressionist’s eye, his new series of paintings is taking on a spontaneous life of its own while he explores surface, colors, values and geometry. In a word, he was “ready” for exploration and he recognized it. Mr. Reina is currently taking rich advantage of his new approach to painting.

No longer chained to representing his subjects in their photorealistic or literal form, Mr. Reina is breaking up his compositions of outdoor life into graphic but still recognizable images and planes. The viewer immediately gets a “Hopper” influence in his paintings, but without the overt melancholy or melodrama. Mr. Reina’s palette is rich with clean, modernist tones that are sometimes bright and other times wonderfully subdued. He employs loose and spontaneous brush strokes in these paintings. This brushwork implies the “movement” and creates a lively surface—pleasing to the mind as well as the eye. Details in his subject matter take a back seat to planes of graphic and well-illuminated surfaces. He paints his outdoor scenes as they appear, some including common objects like those old-fashioned, white plastic lawn chairs. Another artist may feel the need to omit or even replace that ungainly chair with a fashionable element to keep the image cloyingly current and desirable, but not Mr. Reina. There are no “beautiful” elements in his works, yet his world, weeds and all, is beautiful as he renders it—a current scene found anywhere on the East End. Thus he makes these scenes iconic and timeless by mature, artistic intention. Viewing his new paintings, a phrase walks through my mind: “This is the ‘real deal.’”

There is neither struggle nor contemporary artistic pretense in Doug Reina’s paintings and, in an art world dominated by slick techniques and trendy styles, that is a most refreshing experience. Mr. Reina’s latest works, often oil-on-panel, have a modernist’s dispatch, turning an unremarkable subject/scene into wonderfully satisfying and recognizable images. In this, his work becomes transcendent, whereby the painted realization of the subject is more important than the personality of the artist behind it. There is space for contemplation in his images as he generously allows the viewer a wide emotional berth. Mr. Reina’s well-intended omission of “contemporary splash” and trendy techniques earns for him canvases that will easily pass the test of time.

Mr. Reina is displaying his newest works in a group show titled, “Viewed – From an Artist’s Perspective” at the South Street Gallery, 18 South Street, Greenport, through August 28. You can view his works at

Art Donovan is a Southampton artist and the author of “The Art of Steampunk.” Email