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New Ways to Get Better

Famed artist Henry Taylor turns his eye to a childhood inspiration
New Ways to Get Better Henry Taylor

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Born in Ventura, California, in 1958, Henry Taylor is an award-winning painter and sculptor whom ARTnews describes as “one of the finest painters of his generation.” While his pieces today can fetch nearly seven figures at auction, Taylor was not widely known until his 40s, when the art world discovered his spontaneous canvases and found-object sculptures. (He utilized cardboard and discarded materials—most notably empty cigarette packs—in his work.) His art is now showcased in museums and galleries around the world. As author Zadie Smith has explained, “Taylor depicts Black history the way many Black people actually experience it: as simultaneous change and stasis, revolution and stagnation, one step forward, two steps back.”

The subjects of Taylor’s work often have an unfinished quality to them, creating both an immediacy and a remoteness in the same image. It is an aesthetic that masks complexity with simplicity, and it’s on display in the works featured here from Taylor’s Disappeared, but a Tiger Showed Up, Later exhibit, which showed at New York’s Hauser & Wirth Southampton gallery in the summer of 2021. The collection includes Taylor’s Jockeys and Caddies series, which depicts Black figures who were essential participants in exclusionary white pursuits. “I remember when there were a lot of Black caddies,” Taylor shared with Hauser & Wirth. “My mom cleaned houses for a living and now the maids are Hispanic. Different people disappear. Jockeys disappeared. The caddies disappeared. That was enough reason for me to paint them.”

His Jockeys and Caddies series was not, however, the beginning of Taylor’s connection to golf. In an interview with Randy Kennedy, director of special projects for Hauser & Wirth, he described the inspiration he took from a childhood schoolmate the golf world knows quite well: “I went to school with the pro golfer Corey Pavin. He was about my age, and I’d go over to Danny Okamoto’s house and see him playing at Eastwood Park, hitting the ball over and over, figuring out new ways to get better, and then one day I start reading about him in the newspaper. That made a big impression on me. It was about flat-out persistence, man, doing the thing over and over until you figure out how to do it better.”

Henry Taylor
The Last Supper
2018
Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
66 × 125 ¼ × 1 ½ inches
© Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Ken Adlard
New Ways to Get Better
I Call All The Shots, Like A Ceo, Bro
2018
Acrylic on canvas
66 ¼ × 88 ¼ × 1 ¼ inches
© Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Ken Adlard
Henry Taylor
HUSH NOW…YOU WON…, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 88 × 66 × 1 ½ inches, © Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Ken Adlard
Henry Taylor
Untitled 2018 Acrylic on canvas 89 × 66 × 1 1⁄2 inches © Henry Taylor Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Ken Adlard
Henry Taylor
HOW YA LIKE ME NOW 2021 Acrylic and charcoal on canvas 88 × 66 × 1 1⁄2 inches © Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Ken Adlard
Installation view, Henry Taylor, Disappeared, but a Tiger Showed Up, Later, Hauser & Wirth, New York, 2021.