Lovers of crosswords, riddles, and rhymes will find much to amuse in Stephanie Taylor’s body of work. Organized by Irene Tsatsos, Taylor’s upcoming exhibition at LACE, her first in Los Angeles, will consist of sculpture, sound, and illustration and tells a complicated and compelling story of a mole that resides somewhere called East Yard. In her exhibitions, stories are written as well as illustrated in two-and three-dimensional form. All of her work is based on an interest in sound— indeed, her exhibitions have featured “soundtracks,” audio accompaniments that are based on her writings.
This young artist, a 2000 graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, crafts stories by starting with a given word or phrase, breaking down those words into syllables and sounds, and then rewriting or “philosophizing” it: so, for example, in one piece the sounds of the word “performance” were mutated into the title Sir Thor France. The title of an exhibition was Stay Funny Sailor, a riff on her own proper name. Entire tales are composed using this method, and the result is a series of quirky, oddly poetic narratives and art objects that relate to the stories. Taylor has an original and refreshing approach to the relationship between language (in particular the sound of words) and art objects. Her works are full of a dry humor that comes from stating or making the ridiculous with a very straight face.
The recent exhibition entitled Adria—her first after graduate school—at Galerie Christian Nagel in Berlin, featured simple line illustrations of the story of a seaman Anisar Condor. The images depict Condor as a young man in his father’s woodshop with what might be named as signs of potential threats: smog and haze (Smaze of Greys), crocodile (Knock no Pile) and snake (caulk low tile, porous slake). Further along, in Bah Sister, a drunk sailor with poor judgement laughs off (or “bahs”) an approaching tornado (“twister”). These images elegantly and humorously illustrate an absurd poem about the life of an artist setting out on a journey of discovery to the land of art—a place inhabited by gnarled old men and attractive creatures. The result is idiosyncratic and appealing, a delightful and engaging puzzle. Like Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, Taylor’s narratives make sense, even if they don’t seem to.