Few things are timeless enough that one would find something special about carving their images out to be immortalized. Max Taylor has made it his life’s work to find them and do just that. In an affirmation of Taylor’s passion and respect for the art form, the D’Aguilar Art Foundation (DAF) recently opened My Neighbourhood – an exhibition of Taylor’s newest prints. Starting out Taylor was born in Grant’s Town, and grew up in Nassau during the 40s and 50s.
He spent his adolescence and young adulthood taking lessons at Don Russell’s Academy of Fine Arts and could later be found shooting the breeze with Brent Malone and Kendal Hanna at the Chelsea Pottery. He left New Providence for New York in the 60s. At the time he hoped he would get into the armed forces. “I think if I did, I wouldn’t have made it anyway,” he said reflecting on his intentions. The art world is glad he remained a civilian.
Taylor ended up enrolling at the Art Students League of New York, where he took a printmaking class that laid the foundation for what would be decades of emotive printmaking. Developing Though his work speaks volumes of Taylor’s proficiency and mastery of the art form, he remains humble in acknowledging his accomplishments.
His devotion to printmaking has made him an unashamed lifelong learning. And after a six-year hiatus, in 2015, Taylor made his return to the art form with a workshop to refresh and develop his practice. Returning to New York City, where it all began, Taylor became acquainted with modernized printmaking under the guidance of master printer Devraj Dakoji in the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, with the support of a grant from the DAF.
His hope was to renew his technique using modern day materials. Printmaking has historically involved toxic chemicals, like acid, to create the memorable imagery. Over years, the solutions would affect artists’ health. Newer techniques involve greener materials and, thus, different methods. "We were delighted to support Max Taylor with a grant from our Global Discovery Program,” said Saskia D’Aguilar, DAF director. “He was a dear, dear friend of my late father-in-law, Vincent, and he has been such an important resource for me since I started the DAF in 2010."
Taylor went on to participate in a residency program at Tampa University, in 2016, where he renewed his love for silkscreen works “My favorite medium is the woodcut,” he said, standing inside the DAF’s gallery. “During the 80s I became very involved in silkscreens. I really became very good at it, but then I dropped it for 20-something years.” Gesturing to a trio of bright prints boasting a series of feminine figures with names like “Sassy” and “Green Dress”, he said, “These are my first silkscreens in over 20 years.”
A return My Neighbourhood was planned to showcase the works Taylor completed during and after his residency and workshop programs. A celebration of sorts, the exhibition has deep sentimental value for the artist, who had devoted himself solely to making woodcuts and paintings for several years. “They (his prints) weren’t selling”, he explained. “There are really not any Bahamian artists who are indulging in it like I did”, he said wishfully. “If I had the money, I would like to open up a printmaking workshop. But it takes a whole lot of money because you need all kinds of materials.”
Getting more support from the sales of his paintings and small woodcuts, Taylor hadn’t had much motivation to go through the weeks-long process of printmaking. That is, until his residency programs offered the chance to return to his calling. “I thought I’d go back to printmaking because I love it,” he said, fondly. “It’s a fantastic art form. It’s exciting in the sense that printmaking doesn’t consist of one technique.” The DAF is a testament to that. The gallery is currently decked out in a full range of prints, including woodcuts, lithography, etchings, linocuts and silkscreen works.
As the show’s name suggests, My Neighbourhood boasts imagery of Taylor’s former stomping ground in the Over-The-Hill community. A regal silk cotton tree from the Fox Hill Parade brings life to one of the gallery’s wall spaces. Taylor reflects on times of a bygone era too. Scenes of a Prince George Wharf where fishermen and boaters would gather to socialize are some of Taylor’s favorites to point out.
His silkscreens call attention to African heritage, femininity and human emotion. “My work was never like Eddie’s (Minnis). And it was never like Rolfe Harris’. My work has more to do with feelings,” said Taylor. “I was mostly influenced by artists like Diego Riviera, Francisco Goya and Elizabeth Catlett. My works consist of a lot of movement and feeling and passion.” Despite his modesty, Taylor has established a base of supporters in The Bahamas, and the D’Aguilar Art Foundation is proud to be one. “I really want to thank the foundation for giving me the opportunity to get back to printmaking,” he said. “I’m very appreciative to have had the opportunity to renew my techniques.”
My Neighbourhood will be on view at the D’Aguilar Art Foundation through June 2016. The DAF is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, contact the foundation at 322-2323.