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Art What!: Al Taylor – Playing with Color at David Zwirner Hong Kong

Al Taylor, Untitled, 1974/1977. © The Estate of Al Taylor. Courtesy The Estate of Al Taylor and David Zwirner

HONG KONG – David Zwirner has announced an exhibition of works by Al Taylor at the gallery’s Hong Kong location, the first presentation of the visionary American artist in Asia. Spanning the mid-1970s through the late 1980s, the works on view will demonstrate Taylor’s transition from painting on canvas to making the three dimensional constructions for which he became known. Moving fluidly between media, Taylor ultimately sought to expand the possibilities of vision in his search for new ways of experiencing and imagining space. His multi-layered investigations of perception provide the viewer with insight into the artist’s idiosyncratic thinking, his methodology, and his playful sense of humor. The exhibition will focus in particular on his canny use of color across media to connect and visually underscore the formal elements of his work.

Although he is more widely known for the three-dimensional works he started making in 1985, Taylor insisted throughout his career that he was a painter—not a sculptor—and maintained that his constructions did not “come from any sculptural concerns. [They come] from a flatter set of traditions.” 1 As he wrote, though he moved away from painting in a traditional sense, the perspectival effects made possible by the medium continued to inform his practice: “What I am really after is finding a way to make a group of drawings that you can look around. Like a pool player, I want to have all the angles covered.”

On view will be a selection of Taylor’s early paintings, which unite abstract compositions with narrative undertones implied by the juxtaposition of formal elements. While they subtly embody reduction and restraint, these works resist stasis with their hints of idiosyncratic playfulness. Borrowing from disparate movements and styles, the artist’s carefully composed paintings do not fit within any one category, but rather manifest a productive tension between flatness and depth, as well as figuration and abstraction that is wholly Taylor’s own. Particularly in later examples, the artist focused more intently on bold color juxtapositions and playful imagery to delineate space and activate the canvas. Both painterly and sculptural, these works possess a fluid rhythm that opens up multiple perspectives.

Also included are examples from Taylor’s Swahili Time series (1981–1983), a group of compositions made following a 1980 trip to Africa. These works are comprised of multiple individual paintings on newsprint, which he arranged in irregular circular formats, and then collaged onto painted wooden supports. The boldly colored abstract imagery in these works suggests parts of a broken alphabet, or disjointed segments of a primitive clock that subliminally infers the movement of time. Through these associations, Taylor characteristically explores multidimensional space and fluid linear motion to open up the boundaries of the pictorial plane.

Taylor’s sculptures, which he thought of as “tools for vision,” were usually fashioned out of unconventional materials, often employing humble and sometimes humorous elements. The exhibition will include examples from Taylor’s Latin Studies series, which marked the artist’s transition from painting on canvas to creating his first three-dimensional objects. While working in tandem on paintings and drawings from the series during 1984, Taylor began to make related configurations out of carpentry scraps that literally extended the picture plane out from the wall. Completed in 1985, the unfolding configurations of planar and linear layers in these early assemblages develop the ideas that would preoccupy Taylor in the ensuing decades of his career.

The exhibition will also feature several sculptures from Taylor’s Broomsticks series, a group of works spanning from 1986 to 1992 that incorporate segments of colorful wooden broomsticks the artist had scavenged from the street trash in New York City. These assemblages engage the phenomenological as well as the perceptual experience of the viewer as they vacillate between two and three dimensions with their exploration of line, shadow, and perspective.

Presented in dialogue with each other, the works included in Playing with Color show Taylor’s consistent and unwavering experimental freedom and sense of play with color, form, and medium.

Al Taylor: Playing with Color runs from 15th September to 22nd October 2022 at David Zwirner Hong Kong, 5–6/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central
Hong Kong
. More information available here

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