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Review: Henry Taylor at Mesler & Hug

May 14, 2009 |  5:30 pm

Henry2 Henry Taylor is showing nearly three dozen paintings made during the past decade (most since 2005), but they are displayed as part of a lively, jampacked installation that goes a long way toward underlining their personal and public meanings.

The main room at Mesler & Hug has been turned into an artist’s studio and living space, complete with homemade sofa and bookshelves built from plastic crates, a thrift-shop coffee table, stained area rug, scruffy side chairs and a somewhat limp houseplant. Paintings, mostly small but a few as much as 5 feet square, are unevenly dispersed.

The rough-hewn canvases, almost all of them painterly small portraits and casual scenes of lounging men and women, are like a gathering of friends and acquaintances. Horace Pippin and Jean-Michel Basquiat are stylistically evoked in works that cross outsider art and graffiti.

Taylor is adept at conveying character with no muss and no fuss — the self-assured presentation of a woman with enormous gold earrings, the faceless embarrassment of a portrait with a note that reads “Momma, I apologize,” the unceremonious aplomb of a bikini-clad (or maybe underwear-clad) young woman leaning back in a folding chair. He composes his figures in solid impasto hues, the forms interlocking with two-dimensional backgrounds.

Henry Occupying a conceptual space midway between the paintings and the furniture are cluttered shrines and stacked-up totems that line the walls, a few of them venturing into the middle of the room. Made from painted cardboard boxes and bewigged mannequins mingled with found objects — lumps of black charcoal in a white lotus bowl, framed snapshots, incense sticks, bundled paper-towel tubes, a paper cup filled with gravel, party whistles and much more — they compose a pack-rat’s humble accumulation of used things. The assembly possesses an inescapably sociopolitical dimension, with leftovers given dignity through a simple gesture of paying attention.

Even the room’s lighting is a mix of the found (battered lamps) and the fabricated (cardboard box chandeliers). The ordinarily solitary distraction of television is mocked through a hand-painted cardboard TV set over in the corner, its screen permanently fixed with a painting of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in mid-attack.

Taylor emerges in this show — his fourth L.A. gallery solo and his first at Mesler & Hug — as a kind of hunter-gatherer artist. Part Robert Rauschenberg and part Jason Rhoades, the installation hums with an unpretentious enthusiasm for the satisfactions of engagement.

— Christopher Knight

Mesler & Hug, 510 Bernard St., Chinatown, (323) 221-0016. Through May 30. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Top: An untitled 2009 work by Henry Taylor. Bottom: Installation view. Credit: Mesler & Hug

Comments () | Archives (6)


Henry taylor is the best painter ever. i have to say that i´m in love with him.

kiss the ring P.

kiss the ring P.


Henry, my man. I remember you from Cam. State children's program. You were a wild and unpredictable man. Everyone was leary of you except for me. Your art speaks of the very individuality of your unique character. I am so happy that you made it. I have thought of you from time to time and wondered... You did a pencil portrait of me on the boys unit in less than 10 minutes and you "captured my true soul". I have often wished that you had gifted it to me but you were "too embarassed at the time". You have an excellent eye and ability to go to the depths. You come alive in the expression of your work. Keep it up. I always believed in you. Jay West R.N.


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