Henry Taylor, The Darker the Berry, The Sweeter the Juice, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 78 × 63½ inches.
Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe
There’s an unabashed honesty in the way Henry Taylor paints a picture — honesty in the act of painting as well as his portrayal of personal experience.
Taylor is a painter’s painter in the sense that his paint-handling, graphic figuration, and uniquely colorful patina all contribute to beautiful paintings that also invite you to dig in psychologically. The works are luscious and thought-provoking. Examining how they’re made – deconstructing their parts – is instructive. His images are like snapshots, but are loaded with painterly decisions. A still from the horrific Philandro Castile video becomes more chilling in paint. Other images are less horrific, but equally charged. Who am I looking at? What is going on in their lives? Sometimes you know, and sometimes you can only imagine.
Henry Taylor, Untitled, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 inches
I am continually fascinated by Taylor’s use of acrylic paint. He has mastered the medium and cracked the elusive code of acrylic. He applies the paint both wet-on-wet and in dried layers. This makes for beautiful contaminations throughout the surface. A splatter sits differently on a dry surface. Knowing how to control moisture is key. It’s fun to imagine the consistency of his paint as he works.
It’s easy to recognize one of Taylor’s paintings in a room. I attribute this to the matte quality of his color combined with economic and highly personalized brushwork. Signature style is something every painter hopes to achieve, and Taylor seems to have come to it naturally.
In his big solo shows, Taylor creates site-specific installations to accompany the paintings (or vice versa) and these are remarkable works of art in their own right. The work fills the floors as well as the walls, creating an immersive experience. I love these environments, but the strength of his paintings alone is enough to engage me as a viewer.
Henry Taylor, Mary had a little…(that ain’t no lamb), 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 96 1/2 x 71 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches, Courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell
Although Taylor is from LA, his work reminds me of Bay Area figurative painters like Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn. A loose and expressive approach to the figure reveals a painter who doesn’t hesitate when it comes to making bold moves and reveling in color.
It’s easy to picture Taylor’s more overt work in your mind. It sticks there. But to stand in front of any one of his canvases, reconciling the surface with the imagery, you’re immediately aware of how powerful his aesthetic sensibilities are at making any scene indelible. His work hits you on a gut level and wears its relevance on its sleeve.
Andrew Fish, Doorway, 2016, Oil on linen, 86 x 64 inches
Andrew Fish is a painter and printmaker. He attended School of Visual Arts in NY and is adjunct faculty at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA. More info and work can be viewed at andrewfish.us.