Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Intimate Order: Brian Taylor @ Tempus Projects

Bryan Taylor, artist's notebook

Tempus Projects, who is fast approaching its two-year birthday, is showing Bryan Taylor's woodcuts in a show titled "The Intimate Order".

One of the things I liked about this show was that the artist showed his own notebooks, letting people look in them and get insight into his process and idea-gestation, some of which lead up to the works exhibited. This is a rare opportunity, and one I encourage any viewer to spend time taking advantage of whenever it is offered.  I chose this image because it is related to the work in the show. Note the erection, the excitation emphasized by the red tints, the eye-popping grimace, pointing gesture, ribs and vertebrae sticking out, etc. The word visceral comes to mind.

Work by Bryan Taylor

This woodcut is of what appears to be a somewhat stylized severed head, with black tendrils wafting towards the sky. They bring to mind the wisps of smoke from incense, often used as a temporary conduit between the profane and sacred planes. Is this about sacrifice?

Work by Bryan Taylor
I conversed with Bryan for a while on opening night. He told me the woodcuts, some of which are quite large, probably over 2m in length, were based on ideas he had been working on and developing for some time coupled with a book and essays written by Georges Bataille, a French author on many topics, which he tied up with an overarching philosophy, which is much too complicated to into at any length here [Link].  Bataille explored the truths to be found through the flesh and the secretions and excretions from it. Ideologically a descendant of De Sade, Bataille, to simplify his thinking to near-absurdity, believed that the path to wholeness (and the sacred) was through our animal-ness, and that sacrifice was the way to make things sacred. Yes, he included terminal human sacrifice in that. At one time he belonged to a group of French ideologues who had all volunteered to be the sacrifice (in writing), but they couldn't find anyone to be the sacred executioner [Link], and the group eventually disbanded.

Bryan Taylor, "Tropism"

One theme that repeats in these images is that of fusion with the Other, of becoming one not via analysis or comparison, but via the ingestion and juxtaposition of the flesh. Physical communion as a means to get closer to God.

Bryan Taylor, "Talisman"

This is one of the longer pieces, between 5-6 feet long. We see an elongated, detached and skinned human leg, with some viscera attached to where the hip would have been, the foot resting on a human skull, perhaps symbolic of the relationship of the flesh to thought in Bataille's philosophy.
There are tantalizing marks atop the foot, looking ambiguously close to those one would find in the usual depictions of the crucified Jesus' foot (yes, real crucifictions involved driving the nails through the ankles, not the way it is normally depicted in religious icons).

Bryan Taylor, "Autotropism"

In "Autotropism", we find a sitting figure with a tree or horn-like growth emerging from a hole in the side of his head. This looks like the totemic half-man half-animal figures we see from indigenous early cultures from all over the world. The pose looks more than a little fetal, perhaps nascent. The title implies that this is in part abouts turning towards the self.

Congratulations to Bryan Taylor for a trek into dark territory, to Tracy Midulla Reller for showing it, and Tempus Projects for enriching our community.

[From this and other exhibits marking the start of the 2011-2012 season, it looks like a year of daring and strong exhibits has begun.] 

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