Gathering a dozen oil-on-canvas paintings from this year and last, and a series of mixed-medium works on paper (2009-11), Craig Taylor’s recent exhibition was straightforward and refreshingly gimmick-free. Taylor’s abstractions are built up of small gestures, frequently amorphous shapes. The image, such as it is, is not predetermined but appears to have been developed through an intuitive, improvisational process. Taylor’s intentionally clunky touch expresses a worldview: one that values color harmonies, the handmade and an acceptance of the messiness of life. His skill and thoughtfulness as an artist keep you coming back for more.
Often the paintings are divided into different registers, a strategy that reminds one of Bill Jensen’s work. Some have intestine-y, rocklike crevices and rolling, involuted contours. Occasionally an accumulation of marks takes on a figural quality, as a blobby subject floats into the foreground. In other works, particularly the haunting The Unfortunate Case of Me (24 by 18 inches), which has near values of sea foam green and light bluish gray, the image looks as if it has faded into view like a Polaroid.

Titles such as Field Augmentation and Gesture-Driven-Interface seem like direct allusions to Terry Winters’s work, and the debt to Winters is visible as well. Like Winters or Per Kirkeby, Taylor favors the layering of pictorial information within a matrix, or field, as distinct from the modernist grid. In Gesture-Driven-Interface (72 by 54 inches), equal-size cranberry stripes that look like they have been lifted from a Daniel Buren painting are eaten away by dark mossy green and white, to make a mitten shape that vaguely resembles Lower Michigan.

Taylor’s works on paper seem to function as a research laboratory for forms that may reappear in the paintings. Graphite pencil, colored pencil, gouache, markers and collage are used variously to create layered patterns and abstract symbols. The effect is captivating. As in the oil paintings, the colors tend toward acid greens, yellows and reds. If the works on paper are somewhat more involving than the paintings—one senses that Taylor hasn’t quite figured out how to scale up his motifs to the larger canvases—still his approach in the paintings is true: the work is solid and the direction is promising.

Photo: Craig Taylor: Field Augmentation, 2010, oil on canvas, 30 by 26 inches; at Sue Scott.