Born in 1958 in Ventura, California, Henry Taylor draws on a wide range of subjects to create a deeply personal visual language that is simultaneously grounded in history and the present moment. Culling from his cultural landscape in a process he calls ‘hunting and gathering,’ Taylor’s art embraces both the immediate imagery of objects or sitters and personal or shared histories. ‘I mean, everything is inside of you, I feel, it just comes out.’
Ahead of his first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth, Taylor extended and unraveled his practice over the winter months spent in Bruton, Somerset, as artist-in-residence. Working in the studio through the national lockdown, Taylor’s gaze turned inwards, creating new self-portraits such as his depiction as Henry V, a play on his childhood nickname. ‘See, I’m Henry VIII. There’s eight in my family, and I’m the last one.’
Taylor’s works in progress, Bruton, Somerset, 2021. Photo: Jamie Edmundson
Henry Taylor as Henry V. Photo: Jamie Edmundson
Working across two and three dimensions, what unifies Taylor’s art is its supersession of the confines of any traditional genre of painting and sculpture. Taylor’s choice of painterly subjects—from memory and archival materials, to the live sitter—is driven by empathy and firmly dependent upon his sense of connection.
In the 1990s, Taylor began breaking the boundaries of the canvas, painting on the surfaces of found and discarded domestic objects like furniture, cereal boxes, empty cleaning bottles, and cigarette packs. The artist has continued to create assemblage sculptures, stacking and affixing disparate objects together to create multifaceted narratives.
Each work is a visual biography and permanent record of a person or people’s history. ‘I’m a sensitive individual, you know. I respond to things,’ says Taylor. Although his subjects are wildly diverse, Taylor’s work transports us into imagined realities that interrogate the breadth of the human condition, social movements and political structures.
Henry Taylor’s exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Somerset includes a major body of sculptural work and paintings, 26 February – 6 June 2021.