By: Roberta Smith
The title of Henry Taylor’s large, robust solo at Blum & Poe — “Niece Cousin Kin Look How Long It’s Been” — suggests a big, raucous family reunion. The show does too; it’s full of portraits, energized by tactility and individual personality. It includes a group of small punchy likenesses of unnamed people painted in Dakar, Senegal. Their big, staring black and white eyes could bore through you, like those on Nkondi idols from Central Africa.
Things are more nuanced when Mr. Taylor paints people he knows. A 2013 seated portrait of Steve Cannon, a poet and publisher of the literary magazine A Gathering of the Tribes, reflects the artist’s penchant for thrilling abbreviation: vigorously brushed areas imply furniture without losing their force as painted background. The sitter’s intellectual intensity is balanced by casual intimacy as he apparently chews on his left pinkie.