When local arts impresario Kyle Eagle sent word of his latest exhibition, our interest was piqued. All you have to do to get our attention is present Jacoub Reyes, Chuck Stewart, Adam Lavigne and Anna Cruz within a six-month period, apparently. But comparing your latest artist to Taylor McKimens, R. Crumb and James Gillray will really open our ears.
Sore Loser: New Works by Ashley Taylor opens at the Mills Gallery Friday, Aug. 2, and fans of any of the above artists would do themselves a great service to attend. Seeing Taylor’s work on a screen, whether desktop or mobile, doesn’t do it justice. Her intricate, cartoony prints bubble and seethe with frantic hilarity and nervous tension, that kind of laughter that’s balanced on a knife edge between screaming or tears.
In an essay titled “What’s So Funny About Contemporary Art?,” art critic Linda Yablonsky writes, “Funny art comes so loaded with piercing ironies, sudden surrealities, and deadpan expressions of horror or grief that we cannot be sure if it is even OK to laugh. … The funniest-looking figures, however, are less Popeye than R. Crumb’s bearded Mr. Natural, fraught with anxiety, swearing, sweating, and questioning every feeling and thought.” That description of Mr. Natural fits Taylor’s dripping, shouting homunculi to a T.
Taylor’s earlier work embodies the same funhouse aesthetic, but with a somewhat sour edge. Her 2015 show Fool’s Paradise took on the American culture of “consumerism, voyeurism, narcissism and human morality through the establishment of a satirical amusement park” – one which may have sailed right over the heads of any earnest optimists in attendance. In Sore Loser, Taylor is still commenting on what irks her, but rather than trying to force the viewer to acknowledge the absurdities of life, this time she’s just flipping it the bird.
Taylor discussed the show with us via text, saying the show is partially “a commentary on ego and power plays in the painful theater of social life.” But it’s also a reflection on a special moment in her life. “I’ve always let others’ opinions of me shape my worth. I cut ties with that and came to terms with myself. In this transition, there was pain and I could’ve fallen into the trap of bitterness and become the sore loser. But I didn’t. It was up to me and once I decided that, I was free.”