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Henry Taylor: B Side
Oct 4, 2023–Jan 28, 2024

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Henry Taylor: B Side is the first exhibition to survey the career of leading contemporary artist Henry Taylor (b. 1958, based in Los Angeles). Through painting, drawing, sculpture, and installation, this retrospective celebrates an artist widely appreciated for his unique aesthetic, social vision, and freewheeling experimentation. Taylor’s figurative work, populated by friends, relatives, strangers on the street, athletes, politicians, and entertainers, showcases an imagination that encompasses multiple worlds. Informed by experience, his work conveys fundamental empathy through close examination and sharp social criticism. Henry Taylor: B Side is the largest exhibition of Taylor’s work to date, with over 130 works from the late-1980s to the present.

Though Taylor is renowned for his portraiture, his work encompasses many genres and moves through influences. Within this stylistic diversity, Taylor’s attention to Black Americans and to various conditions of Black America comes into focus in ways that are deep-feeling, witty, joyful, and concerned.

Organized thematically, Henry Taylor: B Side highlights several of the artist’s major subjects. Among them: his family members and artistic community, street scenes from Los Angeles and beyond, icons of politics and the music world (including portraits of Eldridge Cleaver, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Jay-Z), and often wrenching encounters with racism, policing, and American history. In addition to paintings, the exhibition includes a selection of Taylor’s assemblage sculptures, rarely seen early drawings of patients at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital (where the artist worked while a student at the California Institute of the Arts in the early 1990s), and a large grouping of his “painted objects,” pointed observations rendered on recycled cigarette packs, cereal boxes, and other everyday supports.

This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), in Los Angeles, and curated by Bennett Simpson, Senior Curator, with Anastasia Kahn, Curatorial Assistant, at MOCA. The presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art is organized by Barbara Haskell, Curator at the Whitney, with Colton Klein, Curatorial Assistant, and Caroline Webb, Curatorial Assistant.