Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Paul Taylor

At the risk of having his artwork go unrecognized, Paul Taylor creates subtle interventions in land- and cityscapes. His works simultaneously embody and critique the influence of the quotidian. To achieve such interventions, Taylor works with an array of media: film, video, concrete, ink, graphite, plants, and found industrial and construction material.

Paul Taylor. CAUTION, 2011-2012; plywood, steel, paint, hardware, water; 24 x 40 x 29 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Taylor. CAUTION, 2011-2012; plywood, steel, paint, hardware, water; 24 x 40 x 29 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Much of Taylor’s work appears as though he simply found a perfect organization of elements that create a humorous, striking, and preordained moment. Gate (2011) is part of a larger body of work titled Anonymous Infrastructure, and it portrays (perhaps most succinctly) Taylor’s ability to intervene almost without being noticed. In the midst of a blank, brown empty lot that awaits a commercial or residential development, the artist built a faux security gate, pouring the concrete platform and assembling the structure under the cover of darkness. Gate stayed in the vacant field, relatively untouched, for a week, until an unknown party dismantled it.

Paul Taylor. Gate, 2011; wood, steel, plastic, reflective tape, paint, concrete, dirt; 125 x 42 x 19 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Taylor. Gate, 2011; wood, steel, plastic, reflective tape, paint, concrete, dirt; 125 x 42 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Though it’s gone now, the work enacted an important gesture of criticality and functional futility. By placing the gate on an empty site, the illusion of control is performed. These gates bar entrance, marking the sites they protect, or restrict, as important and limited, places that not everyone can go to without proper verification. Who controls an empty mud-filled lot, though? And what does it imply to have such a gate imposed on this landscape? Taylor created an instance of creative speculation—future-telling through facsimile—which points to the nature of these types of land sites as ever subject to the whims of a growing and developing population.

Paul Taylor. SORRY, 2015; wood, steel, paint, hardware; 24 x 43 x 32 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Taylor. SORRY, 2015; wood, steel, paint, hardware; 24 x 43 x 32 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

SORRY (2015), also part of Anonymous Infrastructure, juxtaposes a similar industrial element—functional construction signage—with a newly razed site. After a church was destroyed on an urban lot in San Francisco, presumably to make way for something new and profitable, Taylor intervened by placing a warning stand with the word “SORRY” spray-painted on the part that normally says “CONSTRUCTION” or “CAUTION.” The stand looked both purposeful and functional, as if it were placed as part of the demolition, done perhaps by a sympathetic project manager, hoping not to incite the ire of neighbors.

Paul Taylor. Cactus Suspension Assembly, 2011-2015; steel, cast iron, paint, hardware, concrete, dirt, saguaro cactus; 69 x 51 x 11 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Taylor. Cactus Suspension Assembly, 2011-2015; steel, cast iron, paint, hardware, concrete, dirt, saguaro cactus; 69 x 51 x 11 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

In a more permanent fashion, Taylor created Cactus Suspension Assembly (2011–2015), which not only blended in with the site but also remained in place for four years. To construct this work, Taylor used industrial pipe found at a scrapyard that mimicked those commonly used for backflow prevention systems, and planted a saguaro cactus in the middle of the horizontal section of pipe. However, in this case, there is no backflow to prevent, there is no water to store or distribute, and there is no purpose at all. What the work does, though, by combining a saguaro cactus growing out of a steel pipe with a commonly seen water-control system, is to draw attention to the usage and mis-usage of water in places like California, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, which are natural deserts. Taylor brings two forces into a humorous, easily overlooked, and slow-moving collision: water distribution for largely artificial and unsustainable environments and a species of plant so well adapted to its harsh environment it needs barely any water to exist.

Paul Taylor. The Next Sequel, 2013-present (ongoing project); digital photo documentation of handwriting samples, to be displayed on a dedicated website. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Taylor. The Next Sequel, 2013-present (ongoing); digital photo documentation of handwriting samples, to be displayed on a dedicated website. Courtesy of the Artist.

Taylor doesn’t work solely through installing subtle interventions in public places. The Next Sequel (2013–ongoing) is a long-term project for which the artist is capturing countless handwritten samples of the words “the next sequel” and placing them on a website dedicated to showing this fading form of communication. The project plays with notions of analog and digital, anachronistic and novel, archival and unexceptional, in a singularly focused process of acquisition and translation.

Taylor creates objects, installations, contexts, and archives that focus on the things that are easily taken for granted precisely because they are so deeply ingrained in the fabric of everyday life. With a resolute attitude of trust, Taylor places his critical and wry creations into uncommon sites of practice that speak directly to the complexities of unacknowledged everyday experiences.

Paul Taylor lives and works in San Francisco, California. He received his BFA from Carleton College and his MFA from the University of California, Davis. Taylor’s work has been included in group and solo exhibitions throughout the United States, including: the David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA; Munch Gallery, New York, NY; Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA; Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, Minneapolis, MN; Altered Aesthetics, Minneapolis, MN; and Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CA. He is an adjunct faculty member at Santa Rosa Junior College, and has taught courses at University of California, Davis.

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