Tyson Reeder talks Celine
The American artist collaborates with Hedi Slimane on The Dancing Kid
“There’s a kind of romantic idea of the hunt for something that nobody has used yet,” says Tyson Reeder on the phone from Chicago. While the internet has forever changed how we think of research – gone it seems are long days spent in physical libraries and archives – the American artist and curator champions a more tactile, hunter-gatherer approach to finding inspiration.
In thrift stores, Reeder forages for second-hand clothing, seeking out striking colours, prints and fabrics. A dot pattern, he says may later inform the shape he paints a tree. In bookshops, he flicks through out-of-date telephone books before tackling piles of old magazines. “I like that kind of time travel,” he explains. “Old fashion magazines, from the 80s or something, there’s colours I wouldn’t think of. Some burgundy sweater that ends up finding its way into one of my paintings [when] I try to match that colour.”
In principle, there are similarities between Reeder’s magpie research and outfits worn in videos uploaded to TikTok: the social media platform has set a trend for collage-like dressing, with users assembling get-ups from items of clothing that cross genres and decades. It’s a joyful concept and one that Hedi Slimane paid tribute to with The Dancing Kid, his Spring / Summer 2021 menswear collection for Celine.
Unveiled last July via a short film set at the Circuit Paul Ricard, a snaking French race track near Marseille, Slimane’s designs include varsity jackets, ripped denim and high-waisted tailoring. A rosé pink dinner jacket is worn with leopard print pyjama trousers; some outfits are completed with fuzzy knitted wool beanies.
Bright and painterly, a recurring print – emblazoned across hooded sweaters, nylon windbreakers and bucket hats, among other items – groups fantastical palm trees, some with black-spotted yellow leafs, others blush pink, against a turquoise and azure blue backdrop. There’s a pink motorbike pictured speeding along the hem of a crew neck T-shirt. The pastel-hued scene is the work of Reeder, whose 2019 painting Autobahn Slimane chose to incorporate in this season’s Celine wardrobe. “It’s a little mysterious to me how it actually happened,” Reeder says when I ask him how Slimane had come across Autobahn which was first shown by the Canada gallery during the 2019 instalment of New York’s annual Independent art fair. “I was thrilled to hear about it.”
Since his appointment as artistic, creative and image director in early 2018, Slimane has made a dialogue with contemporary artists one of Celine’s calling cards. In addition to previous collaborations – last spring, working with David Kramer, Slimane spelled the American artist’s slogans across varsity jackets and woven baskets – the designer in 2019 unveiled his Celine Art Project, which sees the creations of by now 33 sculptors and painters exhibited in the Parisian brand’s global network of boutiques. “I think it’s an exciting idea to allow painters’ imagery to leap off the wall onto something that somebody wears,” says Reeder. “There’s a kind of populist thrill to that. Painting has the problem of being almost too rarefied. It’s sort of a challenge for painting to shed all the baggage of art history.”
Reeder’s work has previously been described as “narcotic”, “offhand-seeming” and “happier-Munch, laidback-Bonnard”. Frequently setting up outdoors to work en plein air, he paints using watercolours, pencils, gouache and felt-tip pens. In the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Reeder’s 2003 painting Vase also lists nail polish, fabric dye and bleach among its list of mediums; his 2015 Green Cityscape adds sea shells to pencil and acrylic paint.
Reeder is no stranger to creative team-ups: partnering with his artist brother Scott, he has launched a number of events and projects. In Milwaukee, the siblings opened and ran art gallery General Store for three years, before inviting to a series of group shows and art fairs that broke with traditions. In Germany in 2009, their Dark Fair Cologne saw collectors and visitors being kitted out with flashlights before entering the exhibition space, which featured no lights and walls painted all black. Then, there are their Beach Painting Clubs, for which artists leave their studios to instead paint together by the oceanfront. The most recent Beach Painting Club took to East Hampton’s Sammy Beach, once a favourite spot of Elaine and Willem de Kooning. Over the last few months, Reeder has been running Bubbles, his makeshift gallery set up in an aquarium at his studio, peopled by live fish swimming past waterproof work. His current exhibition features Chicago artist Nereida Patricia.
The artist’s choice of subjects is equally irreverent: in his paintings, Reeder contrasts nameable things we all see most days (motorbikes, boats, a city’s skyline) with abstract shapes. A 2014 work superimposes the shape of car with Reeder’s technicolour rendition of sundown. Sunset Van was inspired by the painted sides of vans. “I am interested in seeing a painted surface out in the world, away from the white cube,” Reeder muses. “Even manicures, nail polish. It’s kind of like miniature abstraction that is literally moving around in the world.” Since our phone call, Celine’s The Dancing Kid collection has become available to purchase, taking Reeder’s Autobahn to streets around the world.