THE JANUARY/FEBRUARY issue of Frieze features a cover profile of Henry Taylor authored by Terence Trouillot, a senior editor of the contemporary art magazine. The writer first met Taylor, hung out with the artist, and was introduced to his work a decade ago when “Henry Taylor” (2012), his first institutional exhibition in New York, was on view at MoMA PS1. Trouillot was managing the museum’s restaurant at the time. He recalls “being floored by the sheer grit and tenacity of his brushwork.”

Since then, Los Angeles-based Taylor has garnered international attention and joined mega gallery Hauser & Wirth. Taylor, who considers himself a figurative painter, produces candid scenes and fascinating portraits of the people in his expansive universe—family members, friends, fellow artists, historic heroes, victims of police violence, his neighbors during the pandemic lockdown, and anyone of interest he may encounter on a daily basis. He is celebrated for his richly colored, loosely rendered, bluesy approach to visual storytelling.

 


Henry Taylor: Frieze, January/February 2023

 

The profile was published on the occasion of “Henry Taylor: B Side” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the artist’s largest exhibition to date and first museum survey in his hometown. Organized thematically, more than 150 works are on view, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, and installations, all dating from the mid-1980s to 2022.

Trouillot interviewed Taylor over Zoom and attended the opening of “B Side.” Key highlights from the Frieze article include the personal and creative motivations behind the artist’s work:

 

Taylor grew up in Oxnard, Calif. (about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles), where he was raised in a large family of eight children. He came by his method of art making honestly, observing and drawing from young age all the people and goings-on in his home.

    His father, Hershel, was a house painter; his mother, Cora, cleaned houses. They lived a modest and happy life in a large white house, as Taylor recalled, and, as the baby of the family, he often found himself simply watching everything that was going on. “I became the observer because I was trying to understand my own life and that’s why I started making pictures as a kid. I just like looking at people and I lived in a house where people came in and out, so I would listen to what was going on.”

The father of two grown children, Taylor recently had a child with his partner, artist Liz Glynn.

    He reminisced, as he now has a two-year-old daughter with Glynn named Epic. “It’s different bro; it’s beautiful.” His first two children are closer to my own age and he spoke candidly about having another child at 64: “It got me worried. I’m older now and I gotta quit smoking, be healthier. I’ll be 80 years old, god willing, when she’s in high school.”

In the lead up to “B Side,” Taylor was intensely focused on his vision for the exhibition, producing new work in order to stage a good show in his hometown.

    Taylor brimmed with excitement, telling me that he’d “been going real hard for the last eight months” to create an exceptional exhibition. He later admitted that he felt he had a responsibility to “represent” in his hometown, which explained his nerves at the opening. “It ups the ante, so to speak. But I’m feeling the damn pressure, bro. I’m overwhelmed. I want to paint my sister, my brother … I’m even getting sentimental about the whole thing.”

Taylor’s paintings of Sean Bell (“Homage to a Brother,” 2007), Philando Castile (“The Times Thay Ain’t a Changing Fast Enough,” 2017), Eldridge Cleaver (2007), and “Portrait of My Brother Robert Randy Taylor” (2010), are included in the exhibition, along with a new room-sized installation, more than three-dozen dress forms and mannequins outfitted in black leather jackets emblazoned with Black Panther buttons and photographic buttons honoring the memory of Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, and others killed by police in recent years.

    Above the coats hangs a banner reading “END WAR AND RACISM!!! Support The Black Panthers.” The work is an homage to his older brother, Randy, a former member of the Black Panthers and a role model to Taylor, who instilled in the artist a deference to political activism and art. “He made us all more politically conscious. And I read everything he read – including Native American activists like Russell Means and Leonard Peltier—because I wanted to be just like him.”
 

The magazine’s coverage also coincides with the art fair Frieze Los Angeles (Feb. 17-19). In March, the Fabric Workshop & Museum will present “Henry Taylor: Nothing Change, Nothing Strange,” a survey of found-object assemblages, tapestries, and textiles created by Taylor during his residency at the Philadelphia museum. CT

 

READ THE FULL ARTICLE “Henry Taylor Paints His People” published by Frieze

 

“Henry Taylor: B Side” is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, from Nov. 6, 2022 to April 30, 2023

 

BOOKSHELF
“Henry Taylor: B Side” was recently published to document the artist’s current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. A hefty volume from 2018, “Henry Taylor” is a fully illustrated, expansive survey with contributions by Charles Gaines, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and Sarah Lewis. Published following his MoMA PS1 show, “Henry Taylor” is out of print.

 

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