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Henry Taylor

A View from the Union Rescue Mission

In the fall of 2008, I spent the night on the roof of the Union Rescue Mission. From this unique perch, I saw the wall of parking garages which acted like a barrier from the up and coming downtown artist galleries and loft s

LAMP Gallery

paces from the long suffering area known as Skid Row.  I didn’t understand why 24 hours in Los Angeles’ skid row neighborhood was a part of an arts journalism class, but I went along.

Our group toured various organizations throughout the beleaguered neighborhood, meeting with community members and organizers.  The walls of the offices were decorated with political art and posters accusing those in power of wanting to take this community away from those who have lived in it, to make way for the more desirable residents.  Others, like the LAMP Community used the power of art to communicate the struggles with addiction and psychosis of residents.  That experience gave me an understanding of a neighborhood struggling with addiction, crime, mental illness and in the name of the Safer Cities Initiative.

Henry Taylor is an artist that has been a member of the community long before the most recent influx of hipster artists.  He has witnessed Mayor Villaragosa’s efforts first hand and paints about it in his solo exhibition at Blum & Poe in Culver City.

As you walk into the exhibition, an installation filled with discarded objects greets you.  Broken beer bottles, plastic jugs and other trinkets of urban debris share the space with images of icons in black male culture. Tupac Shakur stares through the detritus from the top of a Makaveli Shoebox, an image of Kayne West torn from a magazine and a generic male in profile on the packaging for a “cool mesh” WavEnforcer Do-Rag.  Taylor is showing the many facets of male identity.

The text ‘Warning Shots Not Required‘ boldly covers a painting that takes up an entire wall of the exhibition.  A man in a white t-shirt and picked fro in the foreground stares you down.  We are forced to judge if he is someone to needs to be cleaned off those streets are protected by the controversial initiative.

That same text appears in a less bold script out side the window of a couple on their couch living their part of the American dream.  Children are in the distance playing.  The dream or lack there of, is definitely a part of this show.

Taylor’s paintings are strong, clear in their ideas. A male figure created of a painted outline stands with the star of the Sheriff’s Department looming over his shoulder, a not so subtle statement of how a man on the streets of skid row is viewed by those passing by.   Another set of paintings has two faceless men in suits and fedoras with battered chair backs above the canvases address the past with fondness and respect.

The women in Taylor’s paintings are strong, if a little simplistic.  An athletic woman wearing a Tuskegee track uniform leaps over a hurtle, another wearing a white one-piece swimsuit and heels stands tall on a beach.

The children in his paintings are innocent, full of all the hopes life has to offer without the social challenges of growing up in a neighborhood where perceptions seem to have a powerful effect on their future.

Henry Taylor’s solo exhibition is on view at the Blume & Poe Gallery (2727 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA) through May 7, 2011.

******Bonus*****-  When you are there, walk across the hall and peer into the locked gallery where a Takashi Murakami commands the room.

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Sunday Best

[Vimeo 10680426]

Yesterday as I was walking in my north side Chicago neighborhood, where families were getting together for Easter celebrations.  The Mexican girls across the street, dressed in pastel gowns, were out in the front yard searching for hidden eggs while the boys of the Nigerian Minister next door were well groomed in suit and tie headed off to a day of church, all were in their Sunday Best to celebrate this important day in the Christian religion.

From the series "Sunday Best" by Andreas Fischer

This glimpse into their lives reminds me of an exhibition currently at the Hyde Park Art Center.  Artist Andreas Fischer, inspired by a collection of photographs from the Montana Historical Society of men and women from generations past, dressed up in their best for these portraits, tries to create context.  Not knowing anything other than what is captured in the image gave Fischer the license to come up with modern interpretations of the traditional portrait.  You know instantly upon viewing that these are from a photograph.  You also know from the color used and the image created that he made his own story.

The faces are warped, some say Zombie-like.  Fischer says this is intentional, wanting to exaggerate for the contemporary viewer that history and artifacts are left up to the interpretation of the viewer.  That most of the images captured now, seen through the eyes of a future observer will have their context.  Dear future viewer, treat us kindly.

The exhibition ‘Sunday Best’ is on display on the first floor of the Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave) through April 18, 2010.

Life Exposed

Karen Savage’s photograms appear as x-rays capturing the experience of her Catholic upbringing.  Baby Dresses, Wedding Dresses, Penance Scarves are exposed for their delicate place in our history.  Each of these pieces tell a story, creating a collection of stories of women we can all identify with, Savage explains to me as we sit in her Oak Park home.

And the City Gallery at the History Water Tower (806 N. Michigan Ave) in Chicago is an appropriate setting for these works to be on display.  Photograms are created by laying something sheer, like an article of clothing on top of photo-sensitive paper then exposing it to light.  What comes out of this process is a ghostly white image floating on a black backdrop.  There is no lens to manipulate, just the remains of a handkerchief, a lace collar or a tablecloth to tell the tale.

The subject matter in Savage’s pieces adds weight to the medium.  The pieces she selects to examine are of the past; items now discarded for her to find in flea markets and thrift shops, like dress gloves and delicate collars and lace table clothes. Full size dresses show the delicacy of the material.  The embroidery of a tablecloth creates an ornately beautiful pattern.

The black and white works are haunting, but it is the lace gloves stopped me in my tracks.  These gloves are an object from the past, captured on a color photo paper; a process no longer available. The red, yellow, purple are made even bolder next to the black and whites.  This series appears to look like each set were just tossed on to a side table or dressing table and making me wonder who worn them and for what occasion.

Savages images tell a story of the past and of the present; a world of celebration and penance – a delicate world unobstructed by any lens.

(This work can be seen at the City Gallery at the Historic Water Tower through May 10, 2010)

Modernist Meditations

When you walk into the photo exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, you are quickly drawing by the lushness of the images.  The vibrant colors and depth of focus gives an illusion of being in the space.  This is due to photographer John Allan Faier compiling several photographs into one image, giving you a richness of perspective.   But the true joy comes from the actual design of the spaces themselves.

John Allan Faier

In the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Chicago built several mausoleums in a modernist style. The mausoleums are meant to be a place for family to come and commune with the dearly departed.  But with today’s sensibilities, they seem radical; harkening back to the more liberal time when the doctrine of Vatican II was embraced.

The vibrant colors of the carpet and vibrant patterns on the furniture make the rooms look like a hip hotel lounge rather than a cold crypt.  The images have no figures other than lone statues standing strong as if to provide support for mourners to lean on in their time of need.

The exhibition Queen of Heaven, named after one of the cemeteries he visited, allows to even the most atheistic among us to find beauty in religious settings; and a sense of peace in these simultaneously quiet and loud images.

(The exhibition can be seen on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center through March 28, 2010)

Driving Cline Avenue Reprise

[Vimeo 8700217]

Emmett Kerrigan’s paintings are of the past.  Whether farm landscapes, painted wooden tops and cityscapes, Kerrigan’s work instantly draws you in by his sophisticated techniques, luscious colors and ability to look at the discarded in a new light.  This week new works by Emmett Kerrigan opened up at the Elmhurst Art Museum.

Whiting-2
Whiting-2 by Emmett Kerrigan

He is drawn to the objects off the interstate we passes by.  Whether the farms featured in his earlier work or his drives along Cline Ave, a thoroughfare that serves the steel mills and the communities that grew up around them, his images are familiar.  But his use of paint makes these structures fresh again.  His layers upon layers of color trick the eye and provide depth and light.

For those that drive through NW Indiana or take Chicago Skyway, the perspective is immediately recognizable. As the buildings on Cline Avenue represent a community once thriving are now dismissed as outdated and not relevant. So it’s fitting that Kerrigan uses a medium that to some in the contemporary art world is considered outdated and not relevant.

Truthful Enthusiasm interviewed Linda Warren, who represents Kerrigan, at his recent solo show at her gallery.  These works are now on display with other works by Kerrigan at the Elmhurst Art Museum Through March 21, 2010.

Breath In, Breath Out

[Vimeo 8764887]

Worker at the HP Factory in Leixlip, Ireland

Photographer Mark Curran has been documenting the profound change in Ireland since the beginning of the “Celtic Tiger” economic boom of the early 1990s.  Over that time, he has captured the construction boom, which has doubled the housing stock in the past decade.

Prior to the boom, most of the youth of Ireland would consider a move out of Ireland to find work.  Curran was no exception, migrating to Canada with his father and sister at age 19.  As I immigrant he held on to romantic notions of his homeland; memories that were contradicted by the reality of the boom.  High-tech industries moved in to take advantage of the cheap workforce so many chose to stay.

In his recent work, “The Breathing Factory”, Curran captures the workers and environment at a Hewlett-Packard plant in Leixlip, Ireland and its business practice to expand and shrink the workforce to react to demand.  The photographs are a mix of portraits and factory landscapes he took over the course of 20 months with each image having made it past corporate management.   Curran dismissed my questions of control by saying they were concerned about the theft of intellectual property.   He wanted to focus the conversation on the impact these multinational corporations on the communities they reside.

Along side those images, interviews with workers and management are on display, shedding like in the new reality of instability.  A point made more clear when you realize the productions lines captured are constantly being modified, in affect making the works history by the time the project was completed.  Make you want to take a moment and catch my breath, doesn’t it?

iArt What iArt

January 8, 2010 7 comments

[Vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/8620448%5D

The phenomenon of Apple’s iPhone has made its way into the world of visual arts with an exhibition at the Chicago Art Department.   This personal communication device quickly became the most popular smart phone worldwide.  Part of the success of the phone is due to the applications in which you can do anything from personal organization, gaming and a multitude of art-based programs.  Those were the inspiration for Chicago Art Department’s Mike Nourse to create a course to use these phones as an artistic instrument.

In the exhibition now open at CAD’s gallery space in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, we see the abilities and fine art created by this tool.  The works range from photographs captured, processed, filtered and even sent to a printer from the device to capturing stop action (as in this example of our interview) and even a group of international artists who create their works solely on the iPhone.  That group, known as Finger-Painters create elaborate images that is comparable to traditional illustrations, but works created while riding the bus or in between phone calls.

Who knows how long the iPhone trend will last, this week Googles new Droid phone went on sale.  And tech experts believe that it will give the iPhone a healthy competition.  But after visiting this exhibition, I know for sure that the ability to capture, process and print unique, artistic works is solidly part of the art world.

(iPhone Therefore iArt Opening night party Friday January 8th, 6 – 10pm, 1837 S Halsted, Chicago IL)