A NEW PAINTING by Henry Taylor covers the Winter 2023 edition of Art in America. The image is a self-portrait of the artist that he started on his 65th birthday in June. When Taylor talks about his work, he is usually candid, reflective, introspective, and vulnerable.

Taylor sounds particularly vulnerable when speaking about the birthday painting, which he titled “no atou” (2023). The Los Angeles-based artist gave the magazine a first-person account of his experience making the portrait.

“I was in a funk and I just painted it. I was like, Damn, it’s my birthday, and I’m really 65—shit! I can go get me a Big Mac for half-price, get me that Senior Melt. I was feeling all sorry for myself,” Taylor wrote.

“Then I was reading this [Paul] Gaugin book and saw ‘no atou,’ which is something Tahitians would say that means ‘I don’t care.’ That’s how I felt, just at the moment. It’s like being bipolar and you shoot yourself: you’re in Hell or Heaven, and you think, Damn, I shouldn’t have done that. I should be happy I’m alive. I love it!”

Los Angeles-based Taylor is passionate about the act of painting. He makes richly colored, loosely rendered narrative images, generally producing candid scenes and fascinating portraits of himself and the many other people in his expansive universe—friends, family, neighbors, fellow artists, heroes of Black history, victims of police violence, anyone who strikes his interest. The images are personal. They are also insightful, political, and light-hearted; contain love, pride, pain, and wry humor; and are layered with a spectrum of information loaded into the details.

“I was in a funk and I just painted it. I was like, Damn, it’s my birthday, and I’m really 65—shit! …I was feeling all sorry for myself.” — Henry Taylor

“Henry Taylor: B Side,” a major traveling retrospective of the artist is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, through Jan. 28, 2024. The presentation is the largest survey of the artist and features more than 130 works, dating from the late 1980s to present.

Taylor also has a solo show at Hauser & Wirth, inaugurating the mega gallery’s new location in Paris, France. “Henry Taylor: From Sugar to Shit” (Oct. 14, 2023-Jan. 7, 2024) includes more than 30 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper that reflect the scope of his practice over the past three decades. Some of the recent works were made in Paris in June and July 2023, when Taylor was in residence in the French capital. His birthday portrait is among the works he painted during the two-month period in his Paris studio and the painting is on display in gallery show.


HENRY TYALOR, “no atou,” 2023 (acrylic on canvas, 152.7 x 121.5 x 3.5 cm / 60 1/8 x 47 7/8 x 1 3/8 inches).| © Henry Taylor. Courtesy the artist and Hauser and Wirth


In his recollection of the process of making “no atou,” Taylor notes that the birthday cake pictured in the painting is based on a real cake his partner bought for him and mentions that California artist Wayne Thiebaud (1920-2021) was on his mind. Known for his indulgent depictions of cakes, pies, and other confections, Thiebaud regarded his sweet subjects as works of art with an appreciation for the form and formality of the rows in which they were often displayed in real life. (In a similar show of appreciation, Taylor wrote: “I can’t cut this—it’s the most beautiful cake I’ve ever had.”) The artist also explained the appearance of his young daughter in the painting.

“My daughter in the background—her name is Epic. I actually made a painting of her, and it was behind me when I started this one. I was alone and missing my daughter. Of course I snapped out of it. Sometimes I exaggerate my emotions. It’s like being in Iraq and you’ve got to FaceTime your daughter,” Taylor wrote in Art in America. “But really, honestly, I was just going, making paintings. I didn’t want to overthink it. I was just sitting there and it was like, Bam—this is what I’m going to do.” CT


READ MORE The Winter 2023 issue of Art in American also explores collaborations and the now-ever present mix of art and fashion, including Henry Taylor’s recent project with Pharrell Williams and Louis Vuitton and Tyler Mitchell photographing Ferragamo’s Fall/Winter 2023 campaign. In the magazine’s Sightlines column, Whitney Museum Curator-at-Large Meg Onli also discusses her current interests

READ MORE In October, Henry Taylor was among The Greats featured in T: The New York Times Style Magazine


Installation view of “Henry Taylor: From Sugar to Shit,” Hauser & Wirth, Paris, France (Oct. 14, 2023-Jan. 7, 2024). The artist’s self portrait “no atou” (2023) is shown at the center. | Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth


FIND MORE Art in America is owned Penske Media Corporation, the parent company of Variety, which also owns ARTnews and Artforum. On Oct. 26, Artforum fired its editor in chief David Velasco after the magazine published an open letter about the Israel-Hamas War with 8,000 signatures from the arts community. The Oct. 19 letter rejected violence against all citizens and called for Palestinian liberation and a cease fire in Gaza. Initially, the letter did not mention the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis with Hamas taking about 200 more Israelis hostage, or make clear the letter represented the views of the signatories and not necessarily Artforum. The letter was updated on Oct. 23 to reflect these facts. In an Oct. 26 statement, the publishers of Artforum said publication of the letter wasn’t consistent with the magazine’s editorial process. In response to Velasco’s dismissal, staffers demanded his reinstatement and artists Nicole Eisenman and Nan Goldin said they will cease working with the magazine, which is owned by Penske Media Corporation. On Nov. 8, the staff of Artforum posted a statement on the magazine’s website emphasizing its commitment to both the publication’s art writing mission and continuing conversations around the open letter and “defending political expression, debate, editorial freedom, and independence.” On the morning of Nov. 9, Velasco was still listed as editor on Artforum’s leadership page. He has since been removed


The fully illustrated exhibition catalog “Henry Taylor: B Side” documents the artist’s traveling retrospective. “Henry Taylor: The Only Portrait I Ever Painted of My Momma Was Stolen” is the first major monograph of the artist and features contributions by Zadie Smith, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Charles Gaines, and Sarah Lewis.


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