Ron Regé, Jr.
Domy Books, Austin
Through July 29
by Katie Geha
Ron Regé Jr.
“In thinking, we have that element given us which welds our separate individuality into one whole with the cosmos. In so far as we sense and feel (and also perceive), we are single beings; in so far as we think, we are the all-one being that pervades everything.”
– Rudolph Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom, 1893
Ron Regé Jr. makes cartoons that are frenetic and obsessive. Black-inked lines dance deliriously across the page—zig-zagging, radiating beams of light, forming jazzed-up figures with coned hats. Everything is vibration in these comics as they fittingly imagine a supersensible realm—an evolved utopian world where the mechanical coincides with the natural and the occult with non-linear time. The dictum of this world appears in several works in his recent exhibition at Domy books—a phrase that holds the mysteries to all we perceive: “As above so below.”
Regé’s works are pop-mystical musings that create messages of love and understanding. It’s hippy stuff, for sure, but it’s also profound in its sincerity. Each frame is fully realized through the form of the comic—dashed lines stand in for emotions of joy as Regé’s iconic, mechanical, futurist figures dance a jig. Phrases as simple as “The wisdom of the body” or more cryptic musings such as “Like the rays of the sun, knowledge is unavoidable without the veil” appear in rigid lettering on the wall, like the messages of a prophet. The microcosmic collapses into the macro as Regé shows us again and again, that our world is neither objective nor subjective—we are all universally interconnected.
Two major bodies of his work line the walls at Domy. The first is The Cartoon Utopia, a story of consciousness raising: “Are you a ‘child of the cold war?’” a character in one frame asks. “Didn’t they promise us a different kind of future? Didn’t we imagine a different kind of future for ourselves?” The second is a more recent project, the retelling of the biblical story of Lilith. Not unlike fellow cartoonist R. Crumb’s recent Genesis project, Regé illustrates the story of Adam’s first disobedient wife in a flattened all-over comic style. The narrative of these stories allows for Regé to play with style and form while the ridiculousness of his comic figures means the work never feels over serious or preachy.
While the works themselves are intelligent, wryly observed, and expertly crafted, the exhibition as a whole falls short. There seems to be almost no curatorial vision, other than pinning one too many sheets of paper onto the wall. There is, of course, something to be said for an exhibition that is fast and loose, especially in a bookstore setting - the lists of influences, from Agrippa to Buckminster Fuller, casually written directly on the wall, for instance, is particularly pleasing. But the show is still in desperate need of an editor. With each image jammed together, lines swirling in every inch of every frame, it all starts to feel more claustrophobic than utopian. Had the images been given more space, there would have been more opportunity for the reflection and rumination that these works demand. Enlightened works of art, unfortunately, do not always make for enlightened exhibitions.
Katie Geha is pursuing her Ph.D. in art history at The University of Texas at Austin.