Shortly after his last solo show in February, we had a chance to visit Taylor McKimens’ studio in Brooklyn. The show, which was organized by his long-time supporters, Bright Lyons, featured a collection of commissioned paintings that were created during the last seven years. Not only was this McKimens’s first New York show in a long time, but it was a significant milestone in his career. After years of exhibiting across the world through Deitch Projects, the California-born artist is looking to move on to a new chapter.
Growing up in a small town on the California-Mexico border, McKimens was always influenced by the dilapidated artifacts of Americana. Though he has been based in New York for the past 10 years, his old and new work includes everyday scenes from the deserted, countryside suburbs in which he grew up. His aesthetic is influenced by badly printed, DIY zines and flyers, as well. In his work, imperfect lines clash with bright, neon colors, and these elements interact in unpredictable ways.
Currently, McKimens is contemplating new approaches to create his forthcoming body of work. He plans on making a series of pieces using the same source image, incorporating different colors, backgrounds, and effects to alter each version. When we visited his studio, he was beginning to experiment with this concept in his sketchbook and on a few canvases. Usually based on his friends as well as ancient Greek busts and statues, his characters are hard to place in any time or space. The addition of bright colors contrasting with their unimpressed expressions is a tension he has always sought to reinforce in his work. Juxtaposing rich line work with rough fill-ins and loose, translucent brush strokes, his techniques make his work stand out and capture the observer’s attention.
Along with these portraits, McKimens recently returned to his sculptural wire and paper pieces — an extension of his early comic drawings. These thick, cactus-like plants represent the same appeal he is striving for in his 2D work: They are imperfect and unpredictable, scarred by the unfriendly environment. Yet they keep growing and blooming, alluding to the power of nature. Time-consuming to create, the artist stopped making these sculptures for a while, but recently found a solution that will hopefully enable him to continue to create these 3D manifestations of his floral drawings.