L.A. Habitat is a weekly series that visits with 16 artists in their workspaces around the city.
This week’s studio: Henry Taylor; Chinatown, Los Angeles.
Last December, I circled the block around Henry Taylor’s studio for 20 minutes looking for a empty space and finally paying $5 to park in a nearby lot. We approached the studio on a cul-de-sac in Chinatown—which is flanked by big red double doors—at roughly the same time, though he arrived in the back of an Uber. “I was so pumped, I just started three paintings yesterday,” he said, leading me into the cheerful, lived-in space that nicely matched his charisma.
Originally from Oxnard, California, Taylor, 58, has lived and worked near downtown Los Angeles for decades. His studio is evidence of this. Scattered with canvases and painting materials, it is anchored by a couch at the center, where subjects often pose for portraits. Some installation work and more supplies live in the outdoor space at the back end of the studio.
We sat down, and as I took a few test photos, Taylor put on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, which played in the background as he talked about his art, his workspace, and Los Angeles. “Let me tell you something, I know so many people moving out here right now!” he said. “I go to New York quite a bit, but it’s the weather out here.”
Before Taylor started painting, he worked as a psychiatric technician at Camarillo State Mental Hospital. He went on to attend CalArts in 1995. “I didn’t start painting until I was 40 years old,” he said, recalling his early dream of becoming a baseball player. “I was a jock, but I grew up with [comic artists] the Hernandez Brothers. In the seventh grade, they were already professionals, and I was intimidated. I couldn’t draw like that.” Now Taylor paints indefatigably on a wide range of materials, creating vibrant portraits of friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. “I’ll snatch someone off the street and say ‘Come here, let me paint you,’ ” he said.
Currently Taylor is hosting an exhibition titled “Camarillo State Hospital” at his other studio/open gallery on 3rd Street in Los Angeles, and has work featured in the group exhibition “A Shape That Stands Up,” organized by Jamillah James at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in conjunction with Art + Practice. When I visited the studio in December, he was also busy preparing for a solo show at the Mistake Room in Guadalajara, Mexico, which opened on January 30 and runs through April 2.
Below, a look around Taylor’s Chinatown studio.
ALL PHOTOS: KATHERINE MCMAHON