Whitehot Magazine

Taylor McKimens: Stoic Youth at The Hole


Taylor McKimens, Backwards, mixed media on canvas

Stoic Youth
September 12—October 14, 2015
The Hole, New York City


Taylor McKimens new body of work, on view at The Hole in New York City through October 14th, may take some viewers by surprise—depending on their familiarity with his earlier work. As McKimens explains, it is a reduction and simplification of the earlier work, a distillation of visual vocabulary. In fact, to the point of abstraction, as he describes it: they are paintings about painting.

A single device is repeated: the head of someone generically named “Stoic Youth”. The bodiless head is gender non-specific, on purpose. Polymorphous youth, the androgynous male/female, not finally differentiated. It is youth, in it’s ofttimes clumsy and constant change, growing but not yet grown, knowing but still unknowing. In this case, it is quite still, gazing ahead, eyes wide open, looking out and looking in, like a model in art class.

McKimens caught the inspiration for this face from the busts he saw in the Greek collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. And, Stoicism is a Greek concept: the ability to withstand hardship without wasting emotion. Someone said, “Mona Lisa appears so stoic...”

McKimens style of line drawing reminds of printing techniques, in this case it immediately referenced for this viewer the lines of woodcuts. It could be etching too, both of which are traditional techniques. But there is no printmaking involved—each image is meticulously painted from scratch, with unique variations. 

Taylor McKimens, Stoic Youth, Installation view, the Hole, New York, NY

There is a relationship to printmaking, particularly in all it’s ubiquitous forms that we are constantly surrounded by and mostly try to ignore—in packaging, advertising, magazines and newspapers, books, illustrations, comics, and so on. It’s something a child with time on their hands and a vivid imagination in some far flung corner of the universe of small towns would have time to study indepth—be it the cereal box or the back of a dollar bill. And like many a small child, would spin endless and elaborate narratives out of the stuff they were looking at.

That careful study, and vivid imagination, combined with a skill for drawing, created a ticket out—of a small space in a small place, far from larger places—that quotidien itch. In McKimens case, leading to art school in Pasadena, and later to New York City.

There is a consistency and continuity, a constancy, in the work, over time, however subtle it may be, in this latest manifestation. The heads provide a stable center, a foil if you will, for the other goings on in the new works. Backgrounds play a role; painterly, abstract, messy, tidy.  The dialog begins. 

The map, the route taken, the roots, are not forgotten. Reaching back and making contact is always possible—no bridges burned, on the contrary. The narrative remains intact: memories, states of mind, places, people, experiences. The story, the journey, continues—each step is documented by all those drawings, paintings, sculptures, ideas, studios, jobs, exhibitions, conversations, manifestations.   

After studying all the visuals and narratives available in his childhood, and discovering his knack for rendering, McKimens moved on from the California border town of Winterhaven to the vicinity of Los Angeles to study art in Pasadena at the Art Center College of Design. Upon entering the lofty realms of Art he chose to side with illustration. As McKimens explains: if a student just wanted to draw and create pictures it was the only place to go—the rest was refined concept based non-representational art making.

McKimens has wanted to bridge both fields from then on... The Clayton Brothers taught there—Rob and Chris—and were and remain a strong influence. They too were plumbing the depths of border life and culture in all it’s pop and street aspects, and developing an intricate and meticulous method of representation, almost a kind of exquisite corpse in their mysterious and elaborate brotherly collaborations. 

Taylor McKimens, Can You Feel It, mixed media, images courtesy of The Hole, New York, NY

McKimens moved on to New York City in 1999, following implicit directions—higher powers command. Encounters with Misaki Kawai and Donald Baechler further fueled his imagination, and with great determination and fortitude he persisted and forged his path.

This exhibition is a kind of coming up for air, or perhaps, even, a diving deep down. Maybe even both at once. In any case, a step away from the intricately detailed narratives of the familiar work, to a clear focus on what the artist refers to as abstraction.

Emphasizing a broader vocabulary—including such art vernaculars as brushstrokes, drips, splatters, non-representational gestures, erasure, cut outs, unprimed canvas, printmaking associations, color and lack thereof, footprints, fingerprints, spray paint—each piece is deliberately titled, almost poetically, with a clear reference to a youthful state of mind.

Some say that art making is the artist creating a self-portrait (or autobiography for a writer). It could also serve as a mirror, for the viewer.  At the point where they meet the conversation begins. It gets that personal.

The test becomes whether the viewer, unequipped with information about the artist, or their previous work, can stand in front of the artwork and find entry into the dialog it so eloquently lays out.  

The exhibition closes on Wednesday, October 14th, with a reception and catalog release and signing, from 6-8pm. WM


Ingrid Dinter

Ingrid Dinter is an independent curator and sometime writer, based in New York City. She was the owner of Dinter Fine Art, a gallery in Chelsea, from 2004 to 2009. Besides curating 35 exhibitions at the gallery, she also curated “Consider The Oyster” at Graham & Sons (2010) and “Summer Salt” at The Proposition (2011), as well as an ongoing artists film program called “Bohemian Nights”, shown at various venues including the Gershwin Hotel (New York City), The Emerald Tablet (San Francisco), and at IMC LAB (New York).




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