Ken Taylor (b. 1990, Lynwood, CA) work emerges from the quotidian intimacies of people’s lives—from the meals we share with family, Sunday soccer games at the park, and even backyard boogies with friends. For Ken, these seemingly private moments—of significance only to those who experience them—are where we confront the broader contradictions of being human. Born in Southern California but raised in Bakersfield, Taylor grew up in a place where newly arrived migrants live alongside people who either by choice or necessity settled in the agricultural hub of California’s Central Valley. This region, in Taylor’s practice, is envisioned as a new frontier forged by narratives of rebirth and transformation at the edges of society. The promises of different worlds at the margin however are always accompanied by difficult experiences. For Taylor, this becomes most pertinent when considering the ways we grapple with our pasts and our identities.
Thickly layered paintings of varying scales that elegantly and intentionally blur the boundaries between figuration and abstraction depict the emotionally loaded details of the everyday that Taylor is invested in. Men wearing cowboy hats at a soccer stadium, a vaquero dancing with a woman at what could be a wedding, an illegal cockfight, a table filled with food—these common scenes on Taylor’s canvases are fairly ordinary at first. When closely analyzed however, one notices that some of his pictures are painted on tablecloths or old bed sheets; that a cowboy hat is painted next to the flower table arrangement that a mother has made; or that the food on the table clearly tells us that whoever sat to enjoy it had limited means. The nuanced approach to engage with the charged relationship between masculinity and the domestic, the lives of mixed race people, and the inequities of class is what makes Taylor’s practice distinct from his peers and predecessors. In a canon of Art History that has very narrowly defined what we consider Chicanx or Latinx art, Taylor’s works exist uncomfortably. The political in his practice is embodied, viscerally felt, and sited in the most private acts. Despite the bold painterly gestures and bursts of bright color that have come to define his stylistic approach, there is a quietness in the work and as you encounter it the experience resembles one of being invited to see a family photo album—albeit one that speaks to the realities of many families and not just one.
Taylor received his BA in 2014 from California State University. Taylor’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at The Mistake Room, Guadalajara; The Newsstand Project, Los Angeles; Capital Gallery, San Francisco. His works have been included in group exhibitions at Fort Gansevoort, New York; The Pit, Los Angeles; Ever Gold [Projects], San Francisco; Steve Turner, Los Angeles; Penske Projects, Montecito.