April 16, 2009

Henry Was Here

One day recently, as I was busy cracking my egg (details in the link) in the studio, Henry Taylor dropped in. I told him of the progress of the work, of my efforts to surprise myself painting to painting.

Henry said "Uh huh." And walked over to the work table and picked up a sharpie.

Henry is a natural graffiti artist. I'm not saying that Henry is a graffiti artist, far from it. The fine arts and the street arts are two different worlds indeed (each world seems to get off on knarfing energy from the other). The categories hold and the distinctions remain... but I won't let that stop me from making cross comparisons. Henry kicks street graffiti art ass. I mean, he is better than any graffiti artist I have ever seen, better in terms of knowing no boundaries when it comes to reaching out and daubing, scribbling, marking, drawing, writing on any surface that is in front of him. Most graffiti artists are trapped in the conventions of the genre, locked in the nuance of Krylon overspray and the lexicon and typography of domesticated graphic intervention. They like to think of themselves as pirates, that property is a crime, but they tend to practice their interventions in lockstep. Henry is free of all of that. For example, he can start drawing on a piece of paper and follow the drawing off the margins onto adjacent surfaces, onto the the table top, onto the wall, onto the floor, where ever the drawing demands to exist. Where ever he is, whatever is in front of him, there is a suitable support for his art. Once, in the back room of PruessPress, Henry was looking at Joel Mesler's collection of ChinaTown photographic group portraits framed under glass. These are a kind of memento, a yearbook type of documentation of who's who in this specific art community in Los Angeles. And lo! There was a sharpie in front of him, so he picked it up and started scribing various jokes, drawings and remarks and occasional good natured insults onto the surface.

So here he was in front of my blank canvas with a sharpie in his hand. He reached up and scribed the beginnings of a collaboration onto the canvas. "Here you go, break your egg with this."

A few days later, Henry returned to the studio and I had managed to wrangle the painting through various stages. "Hey Henry, throw some licks on this thing, this is a good time." It was interesting. He started with a scrap of cardboard torn from paint tube packaging. The first move was to scrape paint from the eye. Then he took a large palette knife and stripped off the background screed of suavecito field in which the portrait was suspended, all the while talking nonstop about his son, his boyhood friends, his life in Oxnard. We took turns, smooth going.

Rebels don't like the suave thing. Interesting.

Posted by Dennis at April 16, 2009 5:12 PM

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