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Taylor Made

Abstract painter Tommy Taylor’s return to hisnative South sparks a creative tsunami| By Kristi York Wooten | Photography by Christy Bush


January 2010

THE tired stereotype about artists being reclusive, socialmisfits doesn’t fit Tommy Taylor. For starters, thisjust-turned-40 bachelor (he’s single, ladies) is not onlygregarious, but has a gift for gab. And with a futureexhibit at London’s prestigious Frieze Art Fair and artist’sresidency this fall in Seoul, South Korea, this boyishlyhandsome South-of-Grant Park local can scarcely affordto be introverted. But before Taylor goes global, he has amajor Atlanta exhibit opening January 15 at Whitespacegallery. Te show will feature an all-new series of hiscolorful acrylics and oils. His lush, expressive paintingshave been likened to Willem de Kooning’s and haveearned Taylor a reputation as a “painter’s painter.”“Growing up, I hung out with the kids who sat inthe back of the class, always drawing,” Taylor says of hisupbringing in the conservative South Carolina town ofGreenville. “Tey all went on to become architects andmusicians, and I became an artist.” Taylor, who holds aBFA from the University of Georgia, ended up in Atlantaafter living in both Savannah and New York City postcollege.Visiting Greenville last year to help a friend withan extended art assignment had a rather cathartic effecton his own art—giving him the mental space to producean entire show’s worth of work.Taylor, who revels in “the immediacy and fearlessnessof the application of paint,” counts angst-ridden, Britishfigurative painter Francis Bacon as a major influence, buthe also gives props to abstract expressionist Antoni Tàpiesand the conceptual/surrealist art of Inka Essenhigh. Andalthough Taylor’s purposeful lines and pastel color blocksare a far cry from American painter Andrew Wyeth’sstark realism, he owes much of his interest in art to theclasses he took as a young boy at the Greenville CountyMuseum of Art, which once housed the world’s largestcollection of Wyeth’s paintings. “I was always amazed athow [Wyeth] could render a rusty bucket with just a fewbrushstrokes,” Taylor laughs.As for his own work, Taylor has had some prettyfamous clients: Try fashion photographers Steven Kleinand Ruven Afanador, for whom he beautified an onsetshoot involving actress Uma Turman. He has alsoadded flourishes to some of Atlanta’s hippest nightclubsof yore (Mumbo Jumbo, Fusebox, Vision), as well as theglam-graffiti décor of the current Midtown bôite Aurum.Taylor was even commissioned by Anthropologie toembellish the walls of its boho-chic stores nationwide.Everything from a Metallica song to an accidentalencounter with ’60s pop artist Peter Saul is fodder forTaylor’s abstract but reality-grounded canvases—anapproach that meshes just fine for a painter who wishesthe art world wasn’t “so esoteric.”


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