Al Taylor, an influential artist who worked for eight years in Robert Rauschenberg’s studio, will have his first major U.S. museum show at the High Museum in November. Photo: courtesy Postroadmag.com

At the High: American artist Al Taylor in first major museum show

The High Museum of Art announced Thursday morning it would host a major retrospective of the American artist Al Taylor in a show that will occupy all three floors of the Anne Cox Chambers Wing.

The exhibition, to be staged Nov. 17, 2017, through March 18, 2018, will feature more than 150 sculptures, drawings, and prints spanning nearly two decades, from 1981 until the artist’s death in 1999.

Called “Al Taylor: What Are You Looking At?” it will be the first major museum survey in the United States to explore Taylor’s career.

Taylor considered himself a painter, though he became known for his later sculptural assemblages. This is untitled 1985 work is acrylic paint on newsprint. Photo: courtesy High Museum of Art
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Michael Rooks, the High’s curator of modern and contemporary art, began planning the exhibition 13 years ago when he was working in Hawaii, arranging to borrow pieces from such museums as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and The British Museum in London, as well as from private collections in the United States.

Rooks said Taylor was “an artist’s artist,” influencing his elders, his contemporaries and successive generations. He is sometimes included with a group called “process artists,” who attempted to relay the act of creation, with less concern about the end result. But for Taylor, “the finished products were very important,” said Rooks. “The drawings are exquisite, the sculptures are incredibly complex and funny.”

Even Taylor’s paintings often looked sculptural. This is called “Study for Fold, Hang, Flood,” from 1991: pencil and Xerographic toner fixed with solvent on paper. Photo: courtesy the High Museum of Art
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In a statement released earlier Rooks said, “The High is proud to expand the awareness of Taylor’s vital but under-appreciated contributions to contemporary art practice in the late 20th century.”

The artist was born in Springfield, Missouri, in 1948, but lived most of his life in New York City. He focused on painting during the first part of his career, but then began to create three-dimensional constructions and to look at the ways they interacted with light, shadow and the two-dimensional image.

While pursuing his painting career he supported himself by working as an art mover and installer, a set designer’s assistant and, for eight years, as a studio assistant of Robert Rauschenberg.

Taylor often used commonplace objects, such as broomsticks, coffee cans and hula hoops, to construct his three-dimensional works.

While Taylor’s art hasn’t received a large scale exhibit at an American museum, European collectors, writers and galleries expressed greater interest. The New York gallerist David Zwirner has presented multiple solo shows of Taylor’s work, and, representing the estate, is collaborating with Rooks in the show at the High.

A look at the 'Infinity Mirrors' exhibit ahead of it coming to the High Museum

The show is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Taylor died of lung cancer in 1999, at the age of 51.

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