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b. 1958, USA

Henry Taylor Biography

With characters borrowed from history, media, and personal life, Henry Taylor's potent paintings are careful interrogations of life, particularly of African American life, addressing the themes of class, homelessness, politics, and racial and economic disparity in the United States.

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Born in Oxnard, California, Taylor studied journalism and interior design amongst other topics at five colleges across California before working as a psychiatric technician at Camarillo State Mental Hospital in the 1980s and early 1990s. He received a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1995 and began to build his distinctive style, inspired by powerful figurative paintings of American artists such as Alice Neel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jacob Lawrence.

In the early years of his career, Taylor painted on an extensive range of materials including shoebox lids, furniture, and cereal boxes. Untitled (2004), which depicts a desert scene with camels and an oasis, is painted on a row of five cigarette packs, while a piece of found-wood cutting board serves as the canvas for Ardmore (2004), a portrait of a man in a white shirt.

The subjects of Henry Taylor's artworks vary, from friends and family to strangers he encountered on the streets, typically captured in flat and saturated swathes of colour. My Brother Randy (2008), for example, shows one of the artist's seven siblings smiling against a sky-blue background and what appears to be a sofa. At his solo exhibition Henry Taylor With a New Film by Kahlil Joseph at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, in 2016, the artist examined the conditions of homelessness by bringing objects such as bottles, rubbish bags, and a tent into the gallery space. Portraits of anonymous figures were also exhibited, such as a man holding up a cardboard sign in Too Sweet (2016).

Taylor's protagonists are often well-known figures from the African American community borrowed from historical photographs or popular culture. Huey Newton (2007) is based on a photograph of the founder of the Black Panther Party. The photo and its resultant painting shows Newton holding a rifle and a spear. Meanwhile A Jack Move—Proved It (2011) portrays Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. The artist also freely merges time periods, such as in Cicely and Miles Visit the Obamas (2017), which is derived from a famous photograph of Cicely Tyson and Miles Davis from 1968. Instead of attending a film premiere, however, Tyson and Davis have presumably traversed time to visit president of the United States Barack Obama's family in the White House.

Taylor's aptitude has been for creating bold and dignified portrayals in art of African Americans confronting the difficulties they face in daily life. This is especially evident in his artworks depicting victims of police violence, such as Homage to a Brother (2007), a portrait of Sean Bell that was included in the artist's solo art exhibition Sis and Bra at The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2007, or THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH! (2017), dedicated to Philando Castile and exhibited at the Whitney Biennial in 2017.

Taylor lives and works in Los Angeles.

Ocula | 2019

Henry Taylor Featured Artworks

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Not Yet Titled by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry TaylorNot Yet Titled, 2019Acrylic on canvas
153 x 121.9 cm
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Portrait of Deana Lawson by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry TaylorPortrait of Deana Lawson, 2012Acrylic on canvas
50.8 x 40.6 cm
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Portrait of Glenn Ligon by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry TaylorPortrait of Glenn Ligon, 2019Acrylic on canvas
213.4 x 182.9 cm
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Emory: shoulda been a phd but society made him homeless by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry TaylorEmory: shoulda been a phd but society made him homeless, 2017Acrylic on canvas
84 x 60 x 3 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
ain't No Mo cotton by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry Taylorain't No Mo cotton, 2017Acrylic on canvas
96 x 72 x 3 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Cassi Amanda Gibson (no relation to Bob,) by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry TaylorCassi Amanda Gibson (no relation to Bob,), 2017Acrylic on canvas
59.75 x 80.25 x 3.5 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Everyone's Momma by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry TaylorEveryone's Momma, 2013Acrylic on canvas
126 x 75 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Sungtae Kim - Drinking coffee in my chinatown Studio by Henry Taylor contemporary artwork
Henry TaylorSungtae Kim - Drinking coffee in my chinatown Studio, 2012Acrylic on canvas
245.7 x 197.5 cm
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery

Henry Taylor Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, New Images of Man at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Closed
1 February–14 March 2020 Group Exhibition New Images of Man Blum & PoeLos Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Henry Taylor, NIECE COUSIN KIN LOOK HOW LONG IT'S BEEN at Blum & Poe, New York
Closed
24 September–21 December 2019 Henry Taylor NIECE COUSIN KIN LOOK HOW LONG IT'S BEEN Blum & PoeNew York
Contemporary art exhibition, Henry Taylor, Here and There at Blum & Poe, Tokyo
Closed
24 March–19 May 2018 Henry Taylor Here and There Blum & PoeTokyo

Henry Taylor Represented By

Blum & Poe contemporary art gallery in Tokyo, Japan Blum & Poe Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo

Henry Taylor In Ocula Magazine

Frieze Viewing Room: Five Artwork Highlights Ocula Insight Frieze Viewing Room: Five Artwork Highlights By Ocula Advisory, New York

Frieze Viewing Room has opened with its first edition dedicated to an online edition of Frieze New York. Ocula's Advisory team, in constant contact with the many leading galleries represented at Frieze, have reviewed what is on offer and provide a selection of their highlights.

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EXPO Chicago Sets the Scene for 2020 Ocula Report EXPO Chicago Sets the Scene for 2020 By Stephanie Bailey, Chicago

'Where Will You Be in 1933?' was the official song of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair—a buoyant ditty written in 1932 to promote an exposition celebrating Chicago's centennial during the Great Depression. On 18 September 2019, it was performed at the Chicago Symphony Center as part of Samson Young: World Fair Music. The performance extended...

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Dismantling the show: the 2017 Whitney Biennial Ocula Report Dismantling the show: the 2017 Whitney Biennial By Daniella Rose King, New York

Inaugurated in 1932, the Whitney Biennial is the United States' longest running survey of contemporary American art. As with many of its predecessors, the 2017 Whitney Biennial (17 March–11 June 2017) was controversial. The textures of this particular furor are strikingly similar to those incurred in the last Whitney Biennial, held in 2014. In...

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Henry Taylor In Related Press

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HENRY TAYLOR with Laura Hoptman Related Press HENRY TAYLOR with Laura Hoptman 15 October 2019, The Brooklyn Rail

In advance of Henry Taylor's exhibition at Blum and Poe, the artist met Laura Hoptman, Executive Director of the Drawing Center, at the Drawing Center on Wooster Street in Soho for a conversation. What follows is a condensed version of that discussion, which ranges from Taylor's childhood, to the importance of drawing in his practice, and how he...

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Portrait Mode: Artist Henry Taylor Finally Gets His Due Related Press Portrait Mode: Artist Henry Taylor Finally Gets His Due 10 September 2018, GQ Style

I'm sitting in the artist Henry Taylor's driveway in early summer, watching him rough out a portrait in his home garage-slash-studio. He works quickly, applying pink to large areas of the canvas, then counter­balancing with generous slathers of a lush green, pausing only occasionally to search for the next song on his iPhone.

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Henry Taylor: ‘We have to be the ones to speak out’ Related Press Henry Taylor: ‘We have to be the ones to speak out’ 22 July 2018, GQ

If anyone were still in any doubt as to the continuing power of print media, they need look no further than the Jay-Z interview carried in the New York Times at the end of last year.

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HENRY TAYLOR'S TRUTH Related Press HENRY TAYLOR'S TRUTH 4 April 2017, Interview Magazine

Henry Taylor paints people as they are—in their homes, on the street—but he's more than a portraitist of everyday America. His depictions of friends, strangers, and public figures are deceptively simple; his matter-of-fact approach results in works that seem as though the subject is truly present before you, while suggesting histories both...

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