Henry Taylor at Hauser & Wirth

THE American artist Henry Taylor makes his debut at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, with an exhibition of paintings and sculpture occupying all five galleries at Durslade Farm, Bruton, from 26th February to 6th June.

Born in 1958 in Ventura, California, the youngest of eight children, and now lives in Los Angeles. He is best known as a portrait painter, with a vast range of subjects including family, friends, patients (while working as a psychiatric technician at a mental hospital), strangers, waitresses, celebrities, homeless people, himself, historical and cultural figures, sports heroes and politicians.

The broad scope of his work is evident in this exhibition, which includes his first large outdoor bronze sculpture, in the Oudolf Field. This work (pictured) was inspired by the experience of his brother Randy, a founder member of the Ventura County chapter of the Black Panther Party, who was faced with an explicit bumper sticker using a racial slur.

The gallery notes say: “Henry Taylor culls his cultural landscape at a vigorous pace, creating a language entirely his own from archival and immediate imagery, disparate material and memory. Through a process he describes as ‘hunting and gathering,’ Taylor transports us into imagined realities that interrogate the breadth of the human condition, social movements and political structures.”

Throughout his four-decade long career, Taylor has amassed a huge body of highly personal work rooted in the people and communities closest to him, often alongside poignant historical or pop-cultural references. He rejects the label of portraitist – his chosen subjects are only one piece of the larger cultural narrative that they represent. His paintings reveal the forces at play (individual and societal) that come to bear on his subject. He says: “It’s about respect, because I respect these people. It’s a two-dimensional surface, but they are really three-dimensional beings.”

During the winter, ahead of this exhibition, Taylor was artist-in-residence with Hauser & Wirth. Working in the studio throughout the lockdown, his gaze turned inwards, creating new self-portraits such as his depiction as Henry V, a play on his childhood nickname.

His international reputation is reflected in awards and exhibitions. In 2018 he won the Robert De Niro, Sr. Prize for his outstanding achievements in painting. His work was presented at the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 2017, and the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. He currently has work in a major group show at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is preparing a major survey exhibition of his work for 2022.

Pictured: Henry Taylor; paintings and sculptures in one of the Durslade Farm galleries; an untitled painting in acrylic on linen; a large bronze sculpture in the Oudolf Field.