The Artsy Vanguard 2019: Henry Taylor
Henry Taylor by Paul Forney, 2019. © Henry Taylor. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.
Henry Taylor, Untitled, 2017. © Henry Taylor. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.
Nearly 20 years after he emerged on the Los Angeles art scene by making paintings on empty cigarette boxes and selling them for $80, Henry Taylor is making the best work of his life. In 2017, his large, ravishing portraits—of a black man grilling meat on his lawn; of the 32-year-old Philando Castile being shot by a Minnesota police officer—were a highlight of the Whitney Biennial in New York. Months later, his dealer Eva Presenhuber unveiled a raucous show of his portraits at her Zurich gallery, with paintings of the artist’s friends and neighbors, and of Andrea Motley Crabtree, the first female deep sea diver in the U.S. Army. (Blum & Poe has been Taylor’s primary dealer for the past decade.)
Henry Taylor, A young master, 2017. © Henry Taylor. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.
Prices for the artist’s work jumped, and in November 2018, one of his paintings sold for $975,000 at Sotheby’s. At this year’s Venice Biennale, Taylor’s work in the Arsenale has been considered a highlight among everything on view in the city. It includes a heart-stopping triptych featuring a bold depiction of Haitian revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture; a tribute to a Glenn Ligon work; and a scene depicting a ceremony for one of the girls killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.
As the artist Charles Gaines said, “Henry saves his subjects from generalizations and stereotype through gestures and figurations that reveal their humanity, a gaze that is a direct and unmediated collaboration with his subjects.” Gaines added that “this is a form of figurative painting that is transparently conscious of its political and social dimension.”