MoMA PS 1, Henry Taylor
MoMA PS1 will present a major solo exhibition of artist Henry Taylor (American, b. 1958), bringing together more than 70 works by the Los Angeles-based artist. Organized by Peter Eleey, Curator of MoMA PS1 and Laura Hoptman, Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, Henry Taylor will open on January 29 and remain on view through April 9, 2012.
For a decade before and during his studies at the California Institute of the Arts, Taylor worked as an aide to the mentally ill at a hospital in Camarillo, California. A figurative painter with a generous, gregarious personality, this experience—so different from that of a typical art student—sharpened his interest in, and appreciation for, the diversity of individuals from all economic and social walks of life and encouraged a passion for an intensely empathetic style of portraiture that is energetic and immediate. That he has often painted his pictures on objects close at hand—from empty cigarette packages to detergent boxes—in addition to traditional stretched canvas reinforces the feeling of informality and a freshness that surrounds his practice. Taylor also uses commonplace materials and objects from his immediate environment to create sculptural assemblages, which are often similarly figurative in form.
Taylor's earliest mature works include group portraits of his large family, often painted from photographs, fellow students from art school and patients under his care, in addition to self-portraits. After leaving school, Taylor broadened his subjects to include not only friends and acquaintances, but people he met by chance—a waitress at a local restaurant, a homeless person he encountered on the sidewalk of his Chinatown neighborhood in Los Angeles. Quickly painted, often in a single sitting, these are nonetheless formal portraits; faces are closely studied and carefully painted, as are telling elements of clothing like a cap or a logo on a tee-shirt. Whether he is painting a portrait of his beloved brother or a homeless man whose name he never caught, all of his portraits communicate both an affection and familiarity. When asked recently for his criteria for choosing a portrait subject, Taylor answered simply, "I paint those subjects I have love and sympathy for."