Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Lightness of Hyper-Segregation: A Review of Henry Taylor's Exhibition at Blum & Poe

Review by Maximillian Piras

Photos by Roxanne Sexauer

There is really no way to reconcile the arrangements Henry Taylor made inside the Blum & Poe gallery. If they seem displaced, confused, and thrown together it is because they have no option to be otherwise. They have been forced into a fixed space that lacks viable resources for enlightenment. To spell it out: they are oppressed. This is of course not speaking literally of Taylor’s physical pieces, but his subjects. For those that might not feel the imposing hopelessness projected by his massive canvases and array of faceless black sculptures, then you might want to study further into hyper-segregation.

Taylor’s voyeuristic eye has been looking into the urban landscapes which have caged its inhabitants, those who lack resources to escape – or more plainly put: to go on vacation. His subjects are those who were born into the inner city, and who will die in the inner city. Although it is not necessarily a quick read, coinciding with Taylor’s own statements regarding his work. He mentions that it isn’t his goal to beat anyone over the head with a message; he holds no strong political agenda. At most he should be classified as a social observer. Which might be why his paintings are so enjoyable.

If Taylor has one gift emerging above his others, it is his grace in portraying the lightness of his subjects. Who knows why, but his subjects generally appear content. If he is speaking of the tragedies in hyper-segregation, then perhaps his subjects are unaware of their own encapsulation… or just do not care. Of course to consider Taylor’s paintings in this single scope would be to completely undermine his artistic existence. He does not solely existence to enlighten us on this occurrence, but he is damn good at it.

Inside the subtle nuances the darkness appears. Slight portrayals of the shortcomings in education, oppression by authority figures, and worship of marketable idols as escapism transcend throughout. The most prominent for me rose from his painting That’s My Baby Sister, where one subject sports a sweatshirt reading “Califirnia”. It’s also an easy guess to see his sculptures, which are essentially arrangements of detritus painted black, in this light. One area looks like a shrine to Michael Jackson, as his poster hangs above an arrangement of chairs broken apart and incorrectly reconstructed.

Thus far Taylor’s exhibit is one of the best I’ve seen this year. It could easily be considered outsider art, but perhaps only as a beneficial classification. This is the type of art that holds its own visual language and database, which can be utilized free from preconceived contexts often dwelled upon in the art world. In that respect it is more humanitarian and accessible to any outside the aristocracy and bourgeois. Fittingly so, since the latter are the ones likely to see it, it could contain the power to turn any quick to dub it outsider into the outcasts themselves. Because to regard this art as irrelevant echoes dangerously close to saying: there is no solution, for there is no problem.

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