THROUGH LOOSLY RENDERED FIGURATION Henry Taylor conveys a sense of authenticity and insight into the complexity of humanity. The Los Angeles-based artist is participating in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, which opened yesterday. Presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the exhibition coincides with a number of other notable moments for Taylor, including his work gracing the March cover of Art in America magazine, his first-ever public art installation, and a new artist record at auction achieved at Christie’s London earlier this month.
Taylor’s paintings often feature his family and friends. Sometimes he is inspired by historical figures or depicts strangers who have captured his attention. He has five new paintings in the Whitney show and the most striking depicts Philando Castile, an ordinary person who became a familiar figure when was killed during a traffic stop by a Minnesota police officer on July 6, 2016. The incident dominated national news, the latest in a succession of black men shot dead by police.
The moments following the shooting were filmed by Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s fiancé who was in the driver’s seat. Images of Castile bleeding to death, seated on the passenger side of a car, showing his white, blood-stained t-shirt were streamed on Facebook. In “THE TIMES THAY AIN’T A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!!, Taylor shows restraint in his exploration of the tensions between police and the communities they have sworn to protect and serve. Executed in the artist’s signature color-block style, the painting depicts Castile laying lifeless in the seat, the officer’s arm and gun are in view, but the substantial, amorphous-shaped red stain on his t-shirt is absent.
In “THE TIMES THAY AIN’T A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!!, Taylor shows restraint in his exploration of the tensions between police and the communities they have sworn to protect and serve.
Castile was lawfully carrying a gun in the car and the officer apparently overreacted to its presence. The officer was charged in November with second-degree murder and two additional counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon.
Taylor raised the issue of police killings at another major invitational exhibition. He presented “Homage to a Brother” at the 2013 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. The painting pays tribute to Sean Bell, who was slain by police gunfire in 2006 on the eve of his wedding.
AT THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL, there are two more paintings by Taylor on view depicting a black male figure in a white t-shirt. The works appear to imagine Castile on better days. Initiated before his death, but finished this year, “The 4th” (2012-2017) channels Castile two days before the shooting. A black male figure is manning a Weber barbecue grill on the Fourth of July holiday. “A HAPPY DAY FOR US” (2017) shows a black man and woman on a path among leafless trees. Each is holding a small bouquet of flowers as though they are walking down the aisle. Perhaps Castile and Reynolds? Or maybe Bell and his fiancé.
The 2017 Whitney Biennial features 63 artists and collectives, among them are a dozen African American artists. In addition to Taylor, Kevin Jerome Everson, Lyle Ashton Harris, James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Pope.L, Cameron Rowland, Cauleen Smith, Maya Stovall, Torey Thornton, Kamasi Washington, Leilah Weinraub, and photographer Deana Lawson, are participating.
Taylor’s paintings are on view on the sixth floor, displayed alongside works by Brookylyn-based Lawson. The museum describes the presentation as reflecting “a years-long creative dialogue and exchange” between the two artists. Lawson’s staged environmental portraits in many ways accomplish through photography what Taylor pursues with his painting—a lens into everyday lives, recognition and representation for those rarely granted due consideration.
In addition to his participation in the Whitney Biennial, the Art in America cover, and auction record, a painting by Taylor was recently acquired by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. He also installed his first-ever public art work on the High Line in New York, not too far from where the biennial exhibition is on view. CT
The 2017 Whitney Biennial is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art inNew York (March 13-June 11, 2017).
TOP IMAGE: Installation view of HENRY TAYLOR, “The 4th,” 2012-2017 (acrylic on canvas), at left, and THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!, 2017 (acrylic on canvas), at right. | Collection of the artist; courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo; DEANA LAWSON, “Ring Bearer,” 2016 (inkjet print), at center. | Collection of the artist; courtesy Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Photograph by Matthew Carasella
“Henry Taylor” was published to coincide with the artist’s show at MoMA PS1 in New York. Taylor was in residence at the museum for months preceding the show, creating the paintings that appeared in the exhibitions, portraits of ordinary and extraordinary people.
The 2015 painting “i’m yours” by Henry Taylor is a self-portrait presented last fall at his solo exhibition at Blum & Poe gallery in Los Angeles. It was purchased by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in 2016, and is featured in a current exhibition “ICA Collection: New Acquisitions,” on view through Feb. 25, 2018.
Taylor’s visionary, time-shifting double portrait of Cicely Tyson and Miles Davis going to the White House to visit President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama covers the March issue of Art in America magazine. The image was inspired by an photo of the cultural icons captured by Ron Galella in 1968. Inside the issue, curator Courtney J. Martin writes about the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and artist Derrick Adams muses about the influences works and actions by David Hammons had on him as a student at the Pratt Institute in the mid-1990s.
Lot 38: HENRY TAYLOR, HENRY TAYLOR, “Terri Philips,” 2011 (acrylic and collage on canvas). | Estimate $48,880-$73,320. Sold for $182,078 (including fees). RECORD
“Terri Philips,” a 2011 painting by Henry Taylor, sold for $182,078 (including fees) on March 7, 2017, at Christie’s London. The price set a new auction record for the Los Angeles-based artist, whose previous high mark was achieved at Christie’s New York with “See Alice Jump.” The 2011 painting of Olympic track and field champion Alice Coachman sold for $149,000 (including fees) in May 2016.
HENRY TAYLOR, “the floaters,” 2017 (rendering). | A High Line Commission. On view March 2017–March 2018.Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo, and Friends of the High Line. © Henry Taylor
Coinciding with the opening of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Henry Taylor’s first public art work is on view at the High Line in New York for a full year (March 17, 2017–March 2018). Depicting a pool scene, “Floaters” was adapted from a painting by the artist that appeared in an exhibition at Blum & Poe gallery in Los Angeles last fall. The mural is installed on a building overlooking the High Line at West 22nd Street.
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