“Painting to me is like milk in the fridge, it’s just gonna happen” – Henry Taylor
Oh dear, Henry’s getting hungry again. Somebody grab him a bowl of cereal, and a paint brush.
There are many strings that people have tied into Henry’s work. Some call him an outsider artist, politically geared, and even a man void of sacrosanctity but I see a man who simply values life. His life. I see periods, phases and fads in his work, current issues in his life, ways of life that he lives by, codes that he respects I don’t really see a set topic. I see a rapper spitting flow’s about his block, a poet scribing his view on the black struggle, an anchor giving you Usain Bolt’s statistics a man telling his friends who he ran into at the corner store, and rumors being spread about who, what, where and why.
And just like life is happening in the content of his art, so is life happening in the contents he invests in. Cereal boxes, cigarette cartons, bleach and detergent containers, you name it he’l paint it “It’s just gonna happen”
The man himself, Henry Taylor, was an athlete in High School, a psychiatric nurse for 10 years and a father. Because of his strong demeanor, a man who will speak to the president with the same unfiltered dialect he would speak to his “homie” I fear a lot of his work may be misjudged and that somehow he is cognitively viewed as a product of his environment. That’s not a fair view to have, if you take away his living in his environment, whose to say that those who defined his work would even find value in it anymore? With most of his work being portraits, how is all his work technically telling any other story outside the identity of who is displayed in the portrait? That’s a guy, who use to sleep on my porch, that’s my uncle and his friend, that’s Jonathan from Braddock Library and somehow all this means he’s a product of his environment? Why not enlightening culture and day to day people? Why not an artist’s point of view? You may argue that these views are “blase” but isn’t that how successful artist of the past are viewed? Those artist are considered legends today, and their art was viewed by the contents of their work, the tactics that they used, different views in detail, the fact that there are signature occurrences that are dead giveaways that will lead you to believe that “this has to be a Picasso.” When comparing an article to Alice Neel, an artist he is constantly compared to, I notice that there is a whole lot of embracement of her own view of her art, and slight mentions of using art as a coping mechanism to mourn the loss of her husband. Henry however has even declined views on his art, ushered them off to other artists who may fit that category but not his, he likes to push his limitations and test his talents, he’s not close minded to outside views, but it just seems most of the attention goes to his identity. Black man, lost his daddy, bad neighborhoods and this work is a reflection of all of it they say. When someone points to rolls of toilet paper on a sugar cane and he tells them it reminds him of one of his mother’s proverbs, you can connect that art to his personal background and his history with his mom. But if you notice one of his installations bring a comparison to detention centers and jail cells, why assume he’s been a troublemaker since elementary school?
At the Art Lending Collection here in Braddock Library you will find one of Henry’s originals, a friend of his painted onto the front of a Life Cereal box and a book from his MoMA PS1 installation and is available to be checked out for 3 weeks with your library card! Pick it up today!