Henry Taylor Too Sweet 2016

  • Not on view

Taylor, a California native, paints individuals who have been categorically overlooked in traditional portraiture. His first figurative works were of patients under his care when he worked as a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital from 1984 to 1994. It was not until his mid-thirties—after years of working as a self-taught artist—that Taylor pursued a degree in fine arts at the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia. This professional training exposed him to a broad range of artists, styles, and material experimentation and led to his own increasingly intuitive aesthetic of exuberant colors, fluid brushstrokes, and unconventional points of view.

In his paintings, Taylor captures his intimate circle of family, friends, and neighbors as well as major African American historical figures, such as a leading member of the Black Panther Party in Eldridge Cleaver (2007). For Too Sweet, he turned his attention to the undeniable presence of the homeless in Los Angeles but resisted the clichéd treatment of this demographic as anonymous and abject. In addition to his attentive focus on a particular figure, Taylor elevated his subject by rendering him on a monumental scale in this eleven-foot canvas. Describing his approach to portraiture, the artist has said, “I paint those subjects I have love and sympathy for.” The title of this work derives from the fact that the subject stands in front of an outpost of a well-known West Coast candy retailer, whose sign is partially visible at left.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Acrylic on canvas
12' × 72" (335.3 × 182.9 cm)
Gift of Lonti Ebers
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

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