Yevgeniya S. Baras is a contemporary painter and cofounder of Regina Rex Gallery and Bull and Ram Gallery, both in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Baras received her BS in fine arts and psychology and MS in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003 and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007.
Regina Rex and Bull and Ram have exhibited artists as diverse as EJ Hauser, Nancy Haynes, Katherine Bernhardt and Peter Gallo.
Baras’s small, intimate paintings are densely layered abstractions of saturated, nuanced color. Her work was most recently on view at Zürcher Gallery, New York, in an exhibition titled “Encounter” (Jan. 17-Feb. 24), which she curated, alongside Joshua Abelow, Avi Sabah, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Fransje Kilaars and Amy Feldman. —JASON STOPA
How did you start Regina Rex Gallery?
Thirteen people founded Regina Rex two years and nine months ago, and the same 13 people run it today. Together we have worked on 35 exhibitions, lectures and projects. The fact that we put on exhibitions is a byproduct of our entangled, active relationship as artists, thinkers and collaborators, and in turn, what we produce binds us as parents are bound by sharing a child. We gather every week to discuss what we have seen, what we are interested in seeing more of, what we think about a particular body of work and the way one body of work exists in response to or against another. Regina Rex is a collaborative effort, a think tank, and hence the “I” has to be regularly reconfigured as it is tested against the “we.”
What role does Bushwick play in the New York art scene?
Bushwick is a stew that contains fresh, raw ingredients. It is packed with studios where artists are thinking in interesting ways. There is a wide range of art being made, spaces being run, conversations being had. It’s alive; it is a producer of culture. Bushwick is the latest version of what has happened in the New York art world many times before. I am aware that I am a part of something current that has occurred in other variations. It’s healthy for the art community at large for there to be a place with a sense that anything can happen. Bushwick questions more traditional art institutions and hierarchies of power. It’s a community that shakes things up.
Are your curatorial endeavors an extension of your studio practice?
I am an artist who curates. When I conduct studio visits I approach an artist’s practice as a maker, an insider. I want to understand their work from within, considering the psychological reasons behind it. These conversations fuel my own thinking as an artist. If painting is alchemical, so is curating.
Curating parallels concerns I have in my studio. It is another platform for making, another material to sculpt with, a way to bring a vision forward, to surprise myself, make mistakes, surpass expectations, to see things anew. Curating is also a way for me to think through ideas that will not materialize in my own studio. It is an opportunity to have very close conversations with people whose work I respect. It is a way to make connections between people, create a platform for dialogue, propel ideas and create ground for future projects. Curating is active and potent.
As a painter, what propels you to create?
I draw inspiration from being in the studio with my work. I nurture, mother, hover over my paintings. They are slowly cooked objects. They are burdened and uneasy. I am inspired by touch, the way materials layer, decompose and transform.
Canvases evoke the body, with its skin, scars, orifices. They are sullied, repulsive, stand-ins for the stigmatized, demonized, condemned and inferior, but, at the same time, they are often the exoticized, eroticized, fetishized and objectified. Their physicality forbids mere intellectualizing, demanding the works be swallowed and ingested. They must be felt.
I am also inspired by spending time in studios of others-the honor of being invited into someone else’s space and then slowly sorting the visuals, private objects, artistic decisions in process, abandoned works. Thinking through the processes of others feeds my work.