KEN TAYLOR REYNAGA
WHERE BLUES MEET
28 APRIL - 10 JUNE 2023
Where Blues Meet, Ken Taylor Reynaga
Born in Southern California but raised in Bakersfield, Taylor Reynaga grew up in a place where newly arrived migrants live alongside those who either by choice or necessity settled in the agricultural hub of California’s Central Valley. Its harvests are those that begin in January with one type of mandarin and ends in December with another, and in between spills forth nearly everything in our produce and dairy aisles. Taylor Reynaga’s works envision this region as a new frontier forged by narratives of rebirth and transformation.
Traveling the surfaces of Taylor Reynaga’s canvases reveal a range of flora, expansive landscapes, and angular plains where crop and sky meet, all anchored by a sense of urgency and intimacy. Worked over in thick impasto, with their green cacti and cobalt waters, these are landscapes in transit, evoking parallels to the interweaving of lives at the Mexican American threshold. Paintings such as the titular Where Blues Meet (2021) suggest at lives characterized by transience and the vivid reds and jagged lines of Red Road and Yellow Mountain (2022) at the complexity of these trajectories. The viewer’s vantage point is often raised, calling to mind the desert eagle perched in the ceramic sculpture Bird 34 (2019).
The cowboy hat is a recurring motif, an object both ubiquitous in the American Western mythology and one of great utility in rural California, protecting laborers from the brutal sun that relentlessly marks the workday during picking season. Taylor Reynaga’s hats fill entire canvases, detailed in lush cadmium, or float, appearing as clouds above views of mountains and roads that seem to vibrate with heat. In the large-scale Daisy’s and Window Pane (2020), these hats conceal an indistinguishable, seemingly interchangeable, quartet, the harvest scene conjuring an ambiguous sense of exhaustion and disassociation. Taylor Reynaga’s characters are indelible, rendered in majestic scale, as opposed to the unseen, anonymous laborers that keep the Southern Californian economy spinning.
The political in Taylor Reynaga’s practice is subtle, often embodied, viscerally felt, and sited in the most private acts, and despite the bold painterly gestures and bursts of bright color that have come to define his stylistic approach, there is a contemplative quietness in this work. For Taylor Reynaga, seemingly private moments - of significance only to those who experience them - are where we confront the broader contradictions of being human.