Grammy-nominated Gary Taxali is one of north America's foremost contemporary artists, and globally recognised as one of the top fine artists working within popular culture. He has won over 500 industry awards, exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum and The Whitney Museum of American Art, plus created coins for the Canadian Mint. Now, The Outsiders
have brought Gary to London for his first UK solo art show.
In his introduction to Taxalis monograph I Love You, Ok? (teNeues) street art kingpin Shepard Fairey describes him as one of those rare artists whose work is immediately inviting and familiar, yet idiosyncratic and unmistakable. Gary's art slickly re-imagines 1930s pop art and iconography. The resulting work possesses a nostalgic feel but a modern sensibility.
Steven Heller, renowned art critic and former art director of The New York Times says, Gary Taxali visually blends now with then. His style is repurposed with the goal of communicating the ironies and comical essence of popular culture. His work is at once alluring and endearing. Aesthetically the work oozes nostalgic charm, but more vitally it offers heartfelt succour for the average men and women of the 21st century.
Turning a mirror onto the viewer is amazing for some artists, but Im more interested in a form of escapism that makes people feel, theres possibilities, says Gary. Despite the horrible depression and turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s there was a general feeling of hope and optimism even though man had never even been to the moon and both are reflected in the imagery of the time. Even corporations represented themselves with cartoon characters, and werent viewed as quite so terrible either.
In the manner of photographer and 2000 Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans, Gary celebrates the everyday, reminding viewers they can find elegance in the simplest matters. I just want people to appreciate the banal: things that are accidentally beautiful, like packaging, he says. Gary utilises various characters in an ongoing narrative. Whilst their wardrobes might not be de rigueur for us modern-day professionals, their neuroses are all too familiar. New characters debut at: Feelings Like You include Friendly Dave and the permanently abashed Chumpy: I see them as androgynous, says Gary, but they are self-portraits too... my avatars.
Gary follows in the fine tradition of blending low culture with high art: Im not a revisionist or nostalgic. But I do feel rooted to contemporary art and design, and I bring that together with the aesthetic. Whilst Gary has employed the style for over a decade, he acknowledges the resonance between then and now, economically speaking.
Garys graphic, textured original works use not only oils but a variety of techniques including silk screening, drawing, ink and other mixed media. They often employ distressed found media and used surfaces. In Feelings Like You therell be ink and enamels on cardboard, a collage featuring old book pages, and oil paintings, he adds. Whilst Gary is noted for miniatures, the exhibition also features his largest ever work at 60 by 80 inches. Hand-pencilled school desk-style graffiti adds yet another layer of playfulness to Taxalis humanist approach. Its a further exploration into my happy world, says Gary, Im telling stories.