The British are coming to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston with the exhibition Sam Taylor-Wood, on view August 2 – October 5, 2008. Organized by Margo A. Crutchfield, senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, this is the first major U.S. museum exhibition of work by London-based artist Sam Taylor-Wood, acclaimed for her photography and film-based installations. Her work examines the shared social and psychological conditions of the human experience, often through depictions of highly charged and emotional situations.
A leading artist of her generation, Taylor-Wood came to prominence in the mid-1990s as one of the YBA’s (Young British Artists), the British art movement that propelled artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin to celebrity status for their provocative and sensational works. Taylor-Wood has since become renowned for deftly manipulating the signature media of our age—photography, film, and video—into compelling psychological portraits. The exhibition brings together an outstanding selection of 29 works from the mid-1990s to the present, including photographs as well as singlechannel and projected film installation work.
Drawing freely from a variety of sources ranging from classic opera to Renaissance and Baroque painting to Hollywood, Taylor-Wood’s thoughtprovoking portraits and film work focus on the various states of human emotion. In her carefully staged work, her characters often grapple with mental and physical breaking points. The video Hysteria, 1997, portrays a woman’s tumultuous descent from a state of exhilaration to a palpable anguish. The poignant and beautifully rendered Crying Men, 2002-2004—a series of photographs that depict Hollywood leading men such as Laurence Fishburne, Ed Harris, and Benicio del Toro, among others, in moments of sorrow and introspection—also evokes the ambiguity of real emotion.
More recent works explore the artist’s fascination with suspended states—the sense of being caught in between two worlds. In David, 2004, Taylor-Wood photographs soccer icon David Beckham asleep, caught somewhere in the nether world of dreams. In the photographic series Self Portrait Suspended, 2004, Taylor-Wood appears utterly weightless and graceful as she is caught suspended in mid air in what appears to be a quest to reach a moment of “absolute release and freedom.”
Since her first solo show in 1995 at White Cube, one of London’s leading galleries, Sam Taylor-Wood (born in London in 1967) has exhibited her work extensively in exhibitions at prominent museums, such as La Fundaciò “La Caixa” (Barcelona); the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); and the Hayward Gallery (London). In 1997, Taylor-Wood received the Illy Café Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennale and was nominated for the Turner Prize. Her most recent one-person exhibitions have included presentations at the STUK Kunstencentrum, Leuven, Belgium, in 2007, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney, Australia) and the Baltic (Newcastle, England), in 2006. Taylor-Wood’s work is in many prominent collections, ranging from the Tate Modern (London) to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York).