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Al Taylor: Wire Instruments and Pet Stains at the Santa Monica Museum of Art
Al Taylor, Decoy, 1989. Pencil, gouache, ink and colored pencil on spiral ring sketchbook paper, 9 x 12 inches, 22.9 x 30.5 cm. Courtesy of the Estate of Al Taylor.

SANTA MONICA, CA.- The Santa Monica Museum of Art presents Al Taylor: Wire Instruments and Pet Stains, the first American museum survey of work by this important and prolific artist. Through his drawings and constructions, Taylor (1948–1999) offers audiences new ways of seeing the world, and this landmark exhibition offers a similar discovery: A rare opportunity to explore the dialogue between his 2-D and 3-D works, and among works in each series, which was the artist’s main concern. Taylor died at age 51 of lung cancer.

Comprised of 47 drawings and constructions made over only three years between 1989 and 1992, Al Taylor: Wire Instruments and Pet Stains opened January 21 and runs through April 16, 2011. Santa Monica Museum of Art Executive Director Elsa Longhauser and Deputy Director Lisa Melandri are co-curators for the Taylor exhibition, which features two major series: Wire Instruments (1989–1990) and Pet Stains (1989–1992). These distinctive bodies of work illustrate the importance of Taylor’s process and creative breadth.

“Until now, these works by Al Taylor have received scant attention in the United States, and there has been little attempt to study these drawings and constructions within a scholarly, social and cultural context,” said Longhauser.

Adds Melandri: “We are providing a context and visual background for understanding Taylor’s work and his place in the history of contemporary art.”

Taylor began his studio practice as a painter in the seventies and early eighties. By 1985, he had developed a unique approach to process, creating a synergistic, if not inspired, relationship between two-dimensional drawings and three-dimensional assemblages, making no distinction between them. Dismissing the term “sculpture,” Taylor preferred to see the 3-D work as “drawing in space.” His goal: To “see more,” “have all the angles covered,” and establish a new way to experience and envision space.

Fashioned from such simple, found elements as wooden broomsticks, wire, carpentry remnants, and other ephemera, Taylor’s constructions are made from materials scavenged from the street. His connection with the commonplace—which remained unpredictable and deep—resulted in a body of work that is singular, inventive, and eloquent.

In Wire Instruments, Taylor experiments with the simplest variations of geometric form, most notably the triangle. His fragile ink, pencil, and gouache drawings and wood and wire constructions have a simplicity and ephemeral beauty that provide a poignant glimpse into Taylor’s creative production.

The work in Pet Stains portrays sensuous, abstract imagery of drop-like puddles, formulated with toner, paint, or ink on paper. The constructions in this series are made from wood and Plexiglas that is dribbled and dripped with paint of every viscosity. Taylor transforms patterns of dog urine on an urban sidewalk into art, demonstrating his subtle sense of humor.

Born in Springfield, Missouri, Taylor studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and moved to New York in 1970, where he lived and worked until his death. For many years Taylor worked as gallery assistant to Robert Rauschenberg, where he met his future wife Debbie, and was acquainted with such burgeoning luminaries as James Rosenquist, Cy Twombly, and Brice Marden. Although these relationships nourished Taylor’s abundant talent, his future work was inspired but not defined by these friendships.

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