The Glass House Blog

Six Panels: Al Taylor (May 31 – July 15, 2014)


Six Panels: Al Taylor May 31 to July 15, 2014

Six Panels is a new series of exhibitions organized by guest curators in the Glass House Painting Gallery. When the Glass House was the private residence of Philip Johnson and David Whitney, the gallery had an active life as new works were acquired and displayed. Building upon this legacy, Six Panels — named for the gallery’s unique display system — inaugurates the Painting Gallery as a site of temporary exhibitions for the public.
The first exhibition in this series presents Al Taylor (1948 – 1999), an artist whose work Johnson and Whitney collected and knew well. Six Panels: Al Taylor is organized by Robert Storr, a former Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art who worked closely with Johnson and Whitney. 

Taylorism: Lyrical Loopiness and Canny Uncanniness

Al Taylor had a singular knack for making something out of nothing. Of course “nothing” doesn’t exist. Everything is something, and the best artists can take the most meager of means and give them form while imbuing them with substance. But only the best are capable of performing such alchemical feats — and, in the present context, we should consider underlining the prefix “al” while capitalizing the “A”— that is to say, the magic of transforming base matter into aesthetic gold.

Taylor’s mentor Robert Rauschenberg was a past master at the same sort of conjury, and much of the power of his work emanates from the fact that Rauschenberg never gilded a lily, much less a package wrapper, torn magazine photo, shoe, hat, stuffed bird, or any of the found objects and images he incorporated into his work. Rather, he let twentieth-century culture speak in its own vernacular and taught the public to find beauty in the 24-karat “thingness” of the least of things.

Whereas Rauschenberg was an omnivorous scavenger and hoarder, Taylor was the most discriminating and formally economical of recyclers. As exemplified by the works in this exhibition, the ready-made predicates of Taylor’s art range from cardboard tubes to tin cans (Warhol went for the graphics of Campbell’s Soup, Taylor for the ridged shape of its containers), to broom handles, to fishing net floats, to novelty shop collectibles such as plastic shrunken heads. Those heads are among the comparatively rare instances of explicitly figurative, much less overtly Pop elements to be found in his palette of materials. And I use the term “palette” intentionally, since the color of a painted broom handle or the given tones of the scrap lumber Taylor redeployed and sometimes repainted were all factors in the carefully considered spectrum of his sculptures.

Trained as a painter at the Kansas City Art Institute in the late 1960s before moving to New York in 1970, Taylor contributed to a long tradition of painterly innovation in sculpture that started at the beginning of the twentieth century with Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and the Russian Constructivists, notably Vladimir Tatlin, with whose wall reliefs Taylor’s own resonate sympathetically. By contrast, though, Taylor was unconcerned with revolutionizing the world by means of art, but concentrated instead on shifting our vantage point on the commonplaces of the world as it is so as to gently destabilize everything we are inclined to take for granted, including gravity.

Innate whimsicality and formal wit, so Taylor shows us, can be just as metamorphic as programmatic single-mindedness. Likewise, “bricolage” — a French word for making things up as you go along from the resources at hand or, in simple English, “tinkering” — is as fertile a basis for engendering fresh art as the “will -to-form” expressed in “media-specific” terms long advocated by “mainstream” modernism. Moreover, impish charm can be as subversive as argument — often more so — just as the self-effacing trickster is at times a more reliable guide to existential absurdity than the grimly determined hero or antihero — and often more so.


Al Taylor. [no title], 1987

Taylor was both a deft tinkerer and a sly trickster. Take his untitled relief of 1987 that when confronted head-on from a distance appears to be a conventional abstract construction mounted on a relatively small support but, when approached up close or seen from an angle, reveals itself to be a zigzagging amalgam of various lengths, widths, and colors of wooden dowel that jut far out into the room from its simple plywood backboard like a sprung Jack-in the-Box eager to “get in the face” of the unsuspecting viewer, or, without there being anything overtly representational about the piece, like the very long arm of a party guest waving a lighted cigarette.

Taylor’s floor-bound, hence differently invasive “Pet Stain Removal Devices” (1989 – 1992) — of which Black Piece (for Étienne-Jules Marey) (1990) is a puddling cousin — are similarly unhousebroken. Dedicated to the French scientist who, along with English inventor Eadweard James Muybridge, pioneered the techniques and uses of sequential photography, this stepped or terraced sculpture seems to record a splash in cascading stages. And, given the spontaneity of its structural elaboration and the apparently unstoppable spread of the black enamel, one is tempted to hike up one’s trouser cuffs or the hem of one’s skirt to avoid contamination.


Al Taylor. Black Piece (for Étienne-Jules Marey), 1990

Other works are more sober in their abstraction, but the essence of their articulation is no less a product of visual play. The untitled cardboard tube variations of 1987 with which this show opens are a marvelous demonstration of some of the many permutations to which an ordinary manufactured form can lend itself. Who has not, at one time or another, toyed with a toilet paper roll after the last sheet is gone, bending it or pulling apart its coiled laminates? But who, other than Taylor, has thought to create such wonderfully syncopated volumes by “deconstructing” such a throwaway item. The Spanish Cubist Juan Gris famously said that while Cézanne had made a cylinder out of a bottle, he aimed to make a bottle out of a cylinder — or words to that effect. Taylor takes a cylinder, slices it like a sausage, unravels it like a rope, and juxtaposing the fragments, utterly reconfigures it like a jeweler working in perishable pulp rather than precious metals.

Taylor was expert at freeing mundane objects from their given identities and settings — tin cans from the pantry shelf, bicycle wheels from the pavement — and suspending or cantilevering them into weightlessness, like so many untethered bits of flotsam and jetsam floating free inside a space capsule. Distill (1988) has this quality, as does Untitled (Night Lessons) (1993), though the wooden armature of the latter is partially anchored to the wall. Exactly where on the wall other reliefs are placed becomes their defining characteristic. Low Fat (1995) sticks out such that it could trip an oblivious passerby, or at least bark at their ankles or calves. Upper Case (Bern) (1992) tips down from on high like a surveillance mirror, except that the plain plywood face of the relief reflects nothing and no one besides the gallery goer is watching. Station of the Cross (1990), Untitled (Mapplethorpe Pc.) (1986), and related pieces hew more closely to traditional modernist concerns but display an improvisatory verve and linear animation that is unique to Taylor’s work.


Al Taylor. Odd/Even, 1989

For their part, Untitled (Mapplethorpe Pc.) and Station of the Cross redraw, reconfigure, and remodel ambient space, even as the pressure plates of the austere Upper Case (Bern) and kindred pieces such as Untitled (1987) reshape it, and the long arm of the work with no title and the festive Layson a Stick (1989) probe and enliven it. For its part, Shrunken Heads with X-Ray Vision III (1993) hovers disturbingly, but also comically, just above eye level, metaphorically miniaturizing the spectator’s head while calling into question the relative intensity of his or her gaze—is he, is she, or are we gifted with X-ray vision? It also links Taylor to the Funk sensibility that has long thrived West of the Hudson even as it obliquely, teasingly evokes Bruce Nauman’s many beleaguered hanging heads. To be in the company of all these ambiguously assertive presences is to be enveloped in a linear, planar, and chromatic “happening” that prompts participation via one’s own forward, backward, and sideways movement.

Taylor’s prodigious talents with a pencil and a brush have much the same effect in two dimensions as his sculptures have in three. To enter into his drawings — for that is what looking at them entails — is to be caught up in an antic conjugation of charged strokes, bold marks, and subtle delineations that coalesce in the suggestion of expanding and contracting volumes frequently shadowed by rich washes and variously broad or attenuated currents of dilute ink or watercolor. These graphic forces attract and hold the stationary glance only to throw it off-balance. The experience of such pleasurable tipsiness and the equally pleasurable effort it requires to re-establish an elusive compositional equilibrium is what makes his work so memorable. In Taylor’s pictorial universe there is no standing still, indeed no fixed contour without latent flux, no void without the potential for a sudden infusion of palpable form. Everything about his works on paper, like everything about his sculpture, converges on the tipping point between eidetic coherence and dissolution, knitting and unspooling, becoming and coming apart. Scrutinizing Taylor’s drawings is like watching a card shark in action perform serial feats of prestidigitation, dealing at will from the top, bottom, and middle of the draftsman’s deck with such dexterity that one is convinced his every spontaneous move, his every trick must have been rehearsed a thousand times, and yet, one after the other, they remain mesmerizingly impromptu.


Installation view of Six Panels: Al Taylor.

Finally, it must be stipulated that this selection of Taylor’s work should not be regarded as a systematic survey or art historical summary of his prolific output. After all, the venue was not designed by Philip Johnson — its resident architect — as a museum but rather as a site for intimate delectation. Accordingly, this presentation should be approached as a sampler whose sole purpose other than providing immediate delight is to tantalize those familiar or unfamiliar with Taylor’s achievement and to inspire them to want more. Nevertheless, as the first exhibition in this uniquely conceived private viewing room since Johnson’s death, it is also a tribute to his partner David Whitney, who was an early and steadfast fan of the artist. To that extent, choosing Taylor as the initial focus of the exhibition series “Six Panels” is a salute to both men.

– Robert Storr, 2014

Robert Storr is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art. He was formerly Senior Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where in 1996 he co-organized From Bauhaus to Pop: Masterworks Given by Philip Johnson. In 2002 he was named the first Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He has also taught at the CUNY Graduate Center, the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, the Rhode Island School of Design, Tyler School of Art, New York Studio School, and Harvard University. He has been a frequent lecturer in this country and abroad. From 2005 to 2007 he was Director of Visual Art for the Venice Biennale, the first American invited to assume that position. The exhibition he organized at David Zwirner in the Fall of 2013 to celebrate the centenary of Ad Reinhardt was voted “Best Show in a New York Commercial Space” by the American Section of the AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art).

Photographs by Ron Amstutz.

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Summer Party at the Glass House


FINAL_EVITE_1The Glass House Summer Party will take place on Saturday, June 14 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. With support from Swarovski, the Summer Party will feature a festive picnic lunch, lawn games, music, and a silent auction along with opportunities to experience Fujiko Nakaya: Veil and the entire Glass House campus.
$10,000 Table Host* (Includes ten VIP seats and two signed benefit edition prints by Candida Höfer).

$5,000 VIP Friend* (Includes one signed benefit edition print by Candida Höfer)

$1,000 VIP Individual Ticket

$500 Individual Ticket

*This level will be acknowledged on the Glass House donor wall as well as all printed and online materials.

For more information, please contact or call 203.594.9884 x33335.














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Save the Date! The Glass House Summer Party, June 22, 2013

Save the Date! The Glass House Summer Party, June 22, 2013

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New Director + Glass House Conversations Film + Dine with Design Photos

New Director Welcome In late May, Glass House friends gathered at the Four Seasons Restaurant to welcome Director, Henry Urbach. The event was hosted by Frank Stella, Nadja Swarovski, John Bennett, Lisa Dennison/Sotheby’s and generously supported by Swarovski.View photos of the event and read Urbach’s vision for the Glass House to reemerge as a vibrant center for intellectual and cultural life.

Dine with Design – Thank You!Thank you to all who participated in Dine with Design at the Glass House. Special thanks to the featured chefs and artisans and to our generous sponsors and media partners for their support.Click here to view photos from the event.

New Film: Kenneth Frampton + Mark Wigley hosting Conversations in ContextThe Glass House Conversations in Context program offers visitors the opportunity to join a leader in architecture, art, landscape, history or design for an evening tour of the Glass House campus followed by an intimate conversation and reception on the historic property.

Upcoming Conversations in Context 
July 19: Robert A.M. Stern, Dean, Yale School of Architecture, Founder and Senior Partner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects + Henry Urbach, Director, The Glass House (Sold out)
August 16: Michael Graves (Sold Out)
September 20: Gary Hilderbrand + John Beardsley
October 4: Beatriz Colomina + Felicity Scott
October 11: Michael Maharam + Paul Makovsky
November 8: Murray Moss + Francois de Menil

The Glass House is pleased to present Metropolis Magazine as a Conversations in Context 2012 media partner.

Glass House Focus Tours
Select Mondays, 2:30pm
2-hour guided tour | $45 per person
Focus tours delve into specifics of the tour topic — Art, Architecture, or Landscape — including special access and alternate paths.
Art + Influence Focus Tours begin July 23
Architecture + History Focus Tours begin July 30
Landscape + Gardens Focus Tours begin October 1
to visit the Glass House during the 2012 season are
available now

Filed under: Conversations in Context, Dine with Design, Glass House Films, Tours + Programs, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dine with Design: A culinary event to benefit the Glass House

Dine with Design

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Modern Picnic 12:00 – 3pm

Last chance for picnic tickets – reserve now!

“As we’ve mentioned before, the Philip Johnson Glass House, located in New Canaan, Connecticut, is one of those destinations just outside of New York that are truly worth the drive-and never more so than during Dine with Design, its annual epicurean festival.”

-Departures Magazine

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Join Our Online Glass House Conversation Hosted by Kimberli Meyer, Director, MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles

Kimberli Meyer

Kimberli Meyer

There are just a few days left to join the online Glass House Conversation with host Kimberli Meyer, Director, MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, at the Schindler House.

A relentless torrent of discourse, high and low, has come to dominate contemporary life. Yet we willingly add more. Why does our chatter matter? Are we invested in the exchange of ideas, do we feel pressured to participate to keep from getting lost in the crowd, or is there something else going on? Where does substance and self-promotion stop and start?

Why are we having this conversation?

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Glass House Congratulates New Canaan High School Photography Teacher Jeanne McDonagh + Student Dylan Neuhaus for 2012 Scholastic Gold Key Award

Image of Glass House by New Canaan High School student Dylan Neuhaus

Photograph of the Philip Johnson Glass House by New Canaan High School student Dylan Neuhaus

The Philip Johnson Glass House congratulates New Canaan High School photography teacher Jeanne McDonagh, and her student Dylan Neuhaus, who won a 2012 Scholastic Gold Key award for a portfolio of photography including a photograph (above) of the Glass House.

Glass House Partnership with New Canaan High School Students + Faculty

The cultivation of young talent is central to the mission of The Philip Johnson Glass House.

The collaboration between the Glass House and New Canaan High School (NCHS) began shortly after the Glass House opened to the public. Photography, documentary film and journalism students, with the support of their teachers, began recording oral histories of the architects, craftsmen and homeowners who created New Canaan’s remarkable heritage of modernist residential architecture.

Additionally numerous photography projects using the Glass House site as inspiration have been woven into the art curriculum at New Canaan High School. Several of these images (including the work of Dylan Neuhaus) have become commissioned products for the Glass House Design Store, sharing this work with thousands of visitors each year.  Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of items using images from the students’ work will be directed to fund this ongoing partnership.

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The Glass House + Dine with Design on the New York Times T Magazine Blog

Dine with Design


The upcoming Glass House event, Dine with Design, featuring A Modern Picnic and the Food Film FestivalTM  is featured on the New York Times T Magazine blog!


Some films uncover longings you didn’t know were in you — to move to Paris, to drive stick, to forgive your parents. Other films are more direct: movies about food usually make you want to eat.

The Food Film Festival, which will next be held on June 9 at the Glass House, Philip Johnson’s midcentury masterpiece in New Canaan, Conn., makes it easy for you. . .

This installment of the Food Film Festival is part of the second annual Dine With Design, an event that benefits the Glass House. The day starts with the Modern Picnic, a three-hour lunch on the Glass House grounds with dishes prepared by six culinary stars, including the James Beard Award winners Gabriel Rucker (of Le Pigeon in Portland, Ore.) and Missy Robbins (of A Voce in New York City).


Dine with Design
Saturday | June 9, 2012
A Modern Picnic | 12 – 3 pm
Food Film FestivalTM under the Stars | 6:30 pm
at the Glass House, New Canaan, CT
Tickets by phone, please call 866.811.4111


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Join the Discussion! Hannia Gómez Hosts a Glass House Conversation

Villa Planchart in 1963. Image from Archivo Gio Ponti Caracas.

Hannia Gómez - Plaza de los Museos, CaracasJoin us for this week’s online Glass House Conversation hosted by Hannia Gómez, President of Fundacion de la Memoria Urbana, founder and vice president of Docomomo Venezuela, and former curator of Gio Ponti’s Villa Planchart, a modern home in Caracas, Venezuela:

The recently restored Tugendhat House by Mies van der Rohe has just reopened to the public. In the words of Jean-Louis Cohen in The Wall Street Journal, the House’s restoration “has benefited from a new approach to preserving Modernist buildings”, and now “a new generation of experts takes an “archaeological” view, yielding superb results.” The Tugendhat House recovered “its grand atmosphere from the 1930s”.

Having worked for many years as curator of Gio Ponti’s Villa Planchart in Caracas (1957), I witnessed a totally different – much slower, less scientific, but very successful – preservation process. Similarly perfect results were achieved through years of intuition and passion for architecture.

How will the latest trend in preservation process and interest in Modernist buildings impact the threatened/saved Modern heritage of the world?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Save the Date! Dine with Design at the Glass House – June 9, 2012

Save the Date! Dine with Design at the Glass House - June 9, 2012
To learn more about the Philip Johnson Glass House visit

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