Henry Taylor is a contemporary African American painter whose enigmatic works include portraits of psychiatric patients, historical figures, and friends. “I paint everyone, or I try to,” the artist has explained. “I try to capture the moment I am with someone who could be my friend, a neighbor, a celebrity, or a homeless person.” Taylor’s colorful, expressive paintings are characterized by their emotional intimacy and gestural looseness, following in the tradition of American artists such as Alice Neel and Jacob Lawrence.
Born in 1958 in Oxnard, CA, his father was employed as a painter by the US Navy and it was seeing his brushes that partly inspired the young artist to take up the craft. Taylor went on to study art under James Jarvaise at Oxnard College, where he was introduced to the work of Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and Jean Dubuffet. While working as a nurse at Camarillo State Mental Hospital for a decade, he returned to school and completed his BFA in 1995 at the California Institute for the Arts. Since then, he has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, MoMA PS1, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, and in 2017, the artist was included in the Whitney Biennial. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Today, Taylor’s works are held in the collections of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, among others.