The Morgan explores Al Taylor's witty and lyrical drawings

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The Morgan explores Al Taylor's witty and lyrical drawings
Al Taylor (1948–1999), Greek Puddles (with Fish Parts), 1992. Gouache and ink on paper.. Private collection, London; Promised gift, British Museum, Department of Prints & Drawings. Photography Glenn Steigelman. © 2019 The Estate of Al Taylor.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum announces a presentation of drawings by painter, sculptor, and draftsman Al Taylor (1948–1999). The Drawings of Al Taylor, on view February 21 through May 24, 2020, explores the artist’s lyrical and witty compositions inspired by banal objects and everyday situations. Driven by curiosity and a sense of humor, Taylor drew maps of pet stains, imagined puddles hanging out to dry, and rendered elegant still lifes of tin cans suspended by wires. During his relatively short career, Taylor produced more than five thousand drawings, in which he combined technical skills, Old Master virtuosity, and graphic systems such as charts and diagrams. The exhibition at the Morgan will shine a new light on Taylor’s practice, highlighting the artist’s distinctive draftsmanship through works spanning the mid-1970s to the late 1990s. The first U.S. museum exhibition devoted to this subject, The Drawings of Al Taylor comprises nearly eighty drawings and twenty sketchbooks, including many drawings that have never been shown before.

Taylor began his career as a painter, and shifted to sculpture and drawing in 1985. Whether in graphite, ink, watercolor, or other media, the drawings he created between the early 1980s and his death in 1999, at the age of 51, display a fluidity and sensuousness that derive from his love of painting. Yet they are also intimately connected to his work in three dimensions—not as studies in the traditional sense, but as independent works dealing with similar subjects and issues. Taylor once said, “At best a drawing should function as a pure drawing first, and only as a conceptual springboard second. I’m using concepts only as a good excuse to make a better drawing—a thing of beauty which can hold on that level all by itself, as a desirable object.” The ambiguous status of his drawings, poised between painting and sculpture, gives them a singular place in the history of the medium at the end of the twentieth century.

The Drawings of Al Taylor is curated by Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings at the Morgan. Many of the works have been borrowed from Taylor’s estate and from the personal collection of the artist’s widow, Debbie Taylor. The exhibition relies heavily on a close study of Taylor’s sketchbooks and notebooks, and the accompanying catalogue presents extensive new research on his uncommon achievement. Dervaux said, “Al Taylor’s original contribution to the art of the 1980s and 1990s can be summed up as a combination of virtuosity, humor, precision, and nonchalance that should be a revelation to many visitors.”

The Drawings of Al Taylor continues the Morgan’s nearly twenty-year commitment to mounting exhibitions devoted to modern and contemporary drawings. The Morgan’s renowned collection of Old Master and nineteenth-century drawings provides a unique context in which to examine the transformations that have affected the medium since the early twentieth century. The museum’s Director, Colin B. Bailey, said, “We are extremely pleased to present a comprehensive and engaging selection of works by Al Taylor. The artist, who became an avid draftsman after early years of painting, fits well within the Morgan’s scope and devotion to collecting modern and contemporary drawings. While Al Taylor has been shown in Europe, we are excited to be the first institution in the United States to highlight his drawings.”

Al Taylor (1948–1999) was an American artist whose innovative approach to process and materials encompassed three-dimensional objects and two-dimensional drawings. Taylor was born in Springfield, Missouri. He received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1970 and moved to New York City the same year. Taylor’s first solo exhibition was in 1986 at Alfred Kren Gallery, New York. Since then, his work has been shown in many exhibitions in Europe and the United States, including solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Bern (1992), Kunstmuseum Luzern (1999), Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich (2006 and 2010), and The High Museum of Art in Atlanta (2017) . The artist is represented in a number of prominent public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Musée national d’Art moderne, Paris; The British Museum, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Al Taylor’s estate has been represented by David Zwirner since 2007

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