Al Taylor

Haunch of Venison

I vividly remember spending hours looking out the window of Al Taylor’s studio in Manhattan at the corner of Twentieth Street and Park Avenue. It was a privileged view. There was always a lot going on at the colorful intersection—a constant stream of traffic and sudden, surprising movements in the wild exchange of people and cars. One’s vision became gradually more contemplative, as the easy conversation started to take on its own improvisational rules, veering between logic and free association. Taylor died in 1999. What remain are the meandering traces of his thought and observations.

This show brought together a comprehensive group of sixty-four drawings (“Puddles”) and six sculptures (“Hanging Puddles”) made between 1990 and 1992. The view from above becomes a vista on paper: Puddles, ponds, pools, rivulets—whether left behind on the sidewalk by peeing dogs or by the rain, they were sketched and persistently transformed. The puddle sculptures hang freely in space: Standing water becomes an event in three dimensions. In thin, black strips of hot-rolled steel, somewhat awkwardly bent, the hooks, loops, openings, and lines flow freely and with a playful ease through the space, attached to the ceiling with simply twisted wires. Bricolage combines with elegance in these lassos suspended in space, where they can be observed from all sides. Seen from a distance, the sculptures might appear to be just lines finely drawn on the wall itself. The Zurich show played subtly and unobtrusively with the alternation of views between clarity and labyrinthine tanglings.

The notion of a “hanging puddle” is a logical but not a perceptual conundrum. “I don’t want my art to be timeless, but to be time itself ”: Mimi Thompson quotes this central remark of Al Taylor’s in her essay in the generously proportioned catalogue. Taylor’s “Puddles” are not mobiles, because their parts are visibly bolted together. But still there is a flowing movement of vision embodied in them, a development in time along the run of the lines, their breaks and incipient loops. Every “Puddle” corresponds to a specific rhythm.

Memories of the colored rubber band and the connective threads in Duchamp’s Sculpture for Traveling, 1918, or various of Louise Bourgeois’ “Lairs”—the hanging penis, its clothes and figures, the cantilevered bars and hangers dangling far into the space—come to mind, as do associations with the hanging sculptural language-landscapes of Harald Klingelhöller. Taylor’s work continues to surprise with its breadth of variation on a single motif. In many of his drawings, alongside pencil, ink, and watercolors—which sometimes also run—he used copier toner and correction fluid. The materials themselves make meaning in an art that exploits the persistent divergence, the irreducible deferral in repetition, an art whose image might be the great spiral that circles an absent center with a forward-moving cyclone of thought in the drawing Industrial Accident Puddle, 1991.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Diana Reese.