Artist Henry Taylor Creates a Unique Installation
By Patrick Quinn
Through November 5th at Blum & Poe
Installation art is a challenging thing for a gallery to commit to. It’s a scenic overlay often bordering on being a theatrical set-piece. But when an installation is successful, it can be a memorable experience. Successful examples include Michael McMillen’s 2016 Outpost show at L.A. Louver as well as the Human Condition show that is temporarily occupying a former West Adams Hospital. Currently on display at the Blum & Poe Gallery is an installation by Henry Taylor that takes up the entire first floor and features a new film created by friend and fellow artist Kahlil Joseph. Henry Taylor is primarily a painter and his canvases hang throughout the first three rooms. They are a part of the environment and yet stand alone. The installation aspect is powerful, but rather than distracting from, it supports the canvases. It’s a great show and one I suggest is best experienced in the middle of the week when there is less foot traffic and minimal distraction.
The first room evokes what older generations used to call the “working class neighborhoods” of Los Angeles. Empty dirt lots, barren trees, post-wars houses with bars on the windows. The men and women in Taylor’s paintings seem aware of their landscape, but it’s hard to tell if they are resentful or resigned to it.
The room is divided by a cinderblock wall and the tent of a homeless person. One feels compelled to take a closer look inside the tent. A violation of personal space we’d never dare do in the real world. After all, this is someone’s home, someone’s castle. Are we disappointed to find exactly what we’d expect? In the far corner, white pearly gates lead to a lush fake green lawn and a swimming pool. This could be Beverly Hills or Baldwin Hills. In the paintings, people relax poolside seemingly content or perhaps just bored.
Across the room, bamboo doors lead to another room. Perhaps a cabana for guests to change in? The discarded swimming trunks at the edge of the pool and hanging on one of the doors seem to indicate so.
The second room is a re-creation of the artist’s studio. Everything seems fresh, not staged. One wonders if the artist has been stopping by the gallery to continue working on a new piece.
Entering the fourth room, all of our senses are thrown slightly off-kilter. We step through curtains into darkness, the only light coming from two large projection screens on the walls. It’s warm and the air is smoky from burning sage and something else. Eyes beginning to adjust, we see black metal folding chairs and a card table in the center of the room. On the table there is only a 12” vinyl record and an ashtray with a smoldering cigar, as if the owner had just left the room. Stenciled on the chairs is S.B.C.B. On the screens are black & white images of men sitting in this very same room. Smoking, drinking, hanging out. The impact is that somehow we’ve stumbled into a place that we’re not supposed to be in, which, in a way, is kind of exciting.
That’s exactly what happened to Henry Taylor in 1979 when he was 20 years old. He went to see Bob Marley and the Wailers at the Santa Barbara County Bowl and somehow managed to get backstage. He found himself in a room with the band and sitting next to Bob Marley. Eventually the two men fell into conversation. Sacred and surreal, it was a defining moment for the artist. Kahlil Joseph’s new film “The Wizard of the Upper Amazon” is part re-creation and part re-imagining of that moment. The images, audio and the heady scent of the burning sage make for an experience that can really be summed up by two words: it’s cool.
The show runs through November 5th.
Blum & Poe is located at 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 (310) 836-2062
Their hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 6