Henry Taylor

Born 1958, Oxnard, California | Lives and works in Los Angeles, California

Henry Taylor, installation view of Mary had a little... (that ain't no lamb) and That Was Then (with works by Sarah Lucas in foreground); 2013, acrylic on canvas, 96 1⁄2 x 71 3⁄4 x 2 1⁄2 in. (245.1 x 182.2 x 6.4 cm) and 95 x 75 x 3 1⁄4 in. (241.3 x 190.5 x 8.3 cm); Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles; Photo: Greenhouse Media


Henry Taylor lets the world into his Los Angeles studio, and onto every surface and object there—cigarette boxes, bottles, furniture, and stretched canvases. He makes no sacrosanct distinctions between iconic historical figures and the person sitting in front of him. People from the neighborhood might wander in and become the subject of a portrait alongside Eldridge Cleaver, an early leader of the Black Panther Party, or the artist’s son. Taylor’s work is fast, rough, and voracious. All subjects of interest to him are painted into flat, heavily worked, and lively grounds; they are embedded and yet they jump off the surface.

There is junk and beauty and history and most of all people everywhere—conjuring all kinds of times and places and attitudes. African American subjects, past and present, populate many of Taylor’s large paintings. While the expressive brushstrokes, exaggerated (or generalized) expressions, and fragmentary surroundings all signal emotion and psychological layers, the speed and surface of his works reveal a series of fluid exchanges: between snapshots, history, and present-day encounters; friends and strangers; and stuff that was found or remembered and then fixed into painting.  

Solo exhibitions of his work include MoMA PS1 (New York, 2012) and the Studio Museum Harlem (2007). He has participated in several group exhibitions in Europe and the United States, including at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, 2012), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2011), and Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC, 2011).

Borrow a work

A work by Henry Taylor is available for checkout in the Art Lending Collection at Braddock Carnegie Library.