By: Andrew Berardini
Days later, the gallery’s still dank with the hotboxed aroma of weed. At the opening of Henry Taylor’s fourth exhibition with this gallery, a film that the artist collaborated on with Kahlil Joseph screened in a shadowy room where a crew of Rastafarians smoked very large spliffs in quietude, just as they do in Wizard of the Upper Amazon, 2016.
Taylor paints with deceptive simplicity and a sophisticated heart the people and scenes he sees around him, and here, these pictures hang in a room amid a dirt lot, graffitied walls, and a dead tree that arcs high to the pristine white ceiling. Another room over, bright green Astroturf circles Not Yet Titled, 2016, a fake pool with a few loose foam noodles floating on its painted cyan surface. Together, these two spaces give off a kind of rags-to-riches story similar to the artist’s. Let’s not dip into biography, though, but instead look: The paintings around the dirt lot reveal street scenes and daily life, whilst poolside are close-ups of a family splashing, swimming, and lounging with joy. Tucked behind the ersatz pool is a re-creation of Taylor’s studio, muddy with paint and painting and stacked with art books, his glasses resting on the table next to them. The paintings’ subjects appear to be the artist’s cohorts and companions, the studio a portal––along with weed, maybe––between different states of being.
Though there’s something a little heavy-handed in these sets, the works have a moving force. They present a way of artmaking mostly abandoned in America after the European avant-garde swept out Regionalism––by an artist who simply paints the distinct scenes around him in a palette drawn from life.