Henry Taylor
Disappeared, but a tiger showed up, later

Wed – Sat, 11 am – 6 pm, Sun, 12 – 5 pm, Mon & Tue by appointment 1 Jul – 1 Aug 2021 Southampton
‘Taylor depicts Black history the way many Black people actually experience it: as simultaneous change and stasis, revolution and stagnation, one step for- ward, two steps back.’ —–Zadie Smith

About

This summer, Los Angeles-based artist Henry Taylor will present a focused selection of recent paintings and sculptures at Hauser & Wirth Southampton. The exhibition includes a group of rarely seen works known as the Jockeys and Caddies, which Taylor began in 2018, based on archival photography of country clubs and horse races dating back to the 1920s. Together, these poignant paintings narrate the history of Black jockeys, caddies, and professional golfers, who navigated these predominantly white and racially exclusionary games. In discussing the series, Taylor shares, ‘I remember when there were a lot of Black caddies. My mom cleaned houses for a living and now the maids are Hispanic. Different people disappear. Jockeys disappeared. The caddies disappeared. That was enough reason for me to paint them.’

The Caddies series begins with a sepia-toned painting, recreating a photograph taken in 1936 at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, home of the Masters Tournament. Since its inception, the white-only club practiced an unwritten rule requiring its players to employ local caddies, all of whom were Black. At the center of the painting is top golfer Gene Sarazen’s favorite caddie, nicknamed ‘Stovepipe’ because of the hat he frequently wore both on and off the course. His full name has been lost to history. Another highlight of the exhibition is a monumental painting based on a photograph of Arnold Palmer smoking alongside a group of caddies at the 1960 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. The caddies are dressed in the required club uniform: white boiler suit and green cap. In both works, the figures blend into their backgrounds, painted in subtle shades of muted earth tones, and in some cases echo the black and white and sepia-toned photographs by which they were inspired.

Racial segregation in the club continued for decades. In 1977, Clifford Roberts, one of the founders of the club, infamously stated, ‘As long as I’m alive, golfers will be white and caddies will be Black.’ But only five years later, in 1982, the club revoked the requirement to use local hires, allowing invited players to use their own caddies. This revision had an unintended consequence: while Roberts could no longer boast of the club’s institutional segregation, the representation of Black men in the game declined precipitously.

Three paintings from the series go on to celebrate two of the most important caddies who endured this shifting landscape: Herman Mitchell and Carl Jackson. Recreating one of golf’s most famous embraces, Taylor depicts the 1995 image of golfer Ben Crenshaw collapsing into his caddie Jackson’s arms after winning the Masters Tournament. Jackson was one of the longest-serving caddies, beginning his career in 1958, and caddying in every Masters tournament save one between 1961 and 2015. At 65, Jackson was asked once what advice he would give to a young Black man who expressed an interest in golf: ‘It would be my suggestion,’ he said, ‘to try to be the player.’

The final work in the exhibition is painted from a photograph of professional golfer Calvin Peete at the 1981 US Open. In 1980, Peete made his debut as only the second Black golfer ever to play in the Masters Tournament. He was once asked his opinion of the Masters’ caddie tradition: ‘Until Lee Elder [the first Black man to play the tournament], the only Blacks at the Masters were caddies or waiters… to ask a Black man what he feels about the traditions of the Masters is like asking him how he feels about his forefathers who were slaves.’

The exhibition will also include a selection of new sculptural assemblages made from domestic objects collected from swap meets and flea markets. When paired with the Jockeys and Caddies series, these works reveal Taylor’s voracious sourcing of subjects and materials, as well as his encyclopaedic command of historical knowledge. Referring to this highly intuitive process as ‘hunting and gathering,’ the artist is able to simultaneously merge multiple references – historic and contemporary – into sharp focus.

Additionally, Taylor’s first outdoor bronze sculpture will make its US debut in the exhibition. This work emerged from a conversation between the artist and his older brother Randy in the 1980s. Randy – a founding member of the Black Panther chapter in Ventura County, California – shared the words of an explicit bumper sticker, which stayed with Taylor for nearly two decades until he embodied them into this striding, antlered figure. The work will be installed in the Southampton Arts Center garden behind the gallery.

Selected images

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About the artist

Henry Taylor’s imprint on the American cultural landscape comes from his disruption of tradition. While people figure prominently in Taylor’s work, he rejects the label of portraitist. Taylor’s chosen subjects are only one piece of the larger cultural narrative that they represent:…

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