Raphael Taylor

Raphael Taylor Interview - By Steven Cox

HUNTED PROJECTS presents an interesting interview with New York based artist Raphael Taylor. 

Raphael Taylor explores and manipulates materials most commonly associated with office spaces, such as ceiling panels and maxon verse wall dividers.  The austere, cold and solemn elements breath a new life through Taylor's adoption to create sculptural works that reference mass production issues associated with 1930's modernism.  Additionally, Taylor's laserjet cut recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry on plexiglass highlights medieval issues that are still prevalent today, such as invasion, politics and war. 


Can you tell HUNTED PROJECTS about yourself and creative background?

RT: I have lived in New York for 7 years. I've been working as an artist in different capacities and at different points, in total for over 10 years.

When did your interest within the arts begin?

RT: I don't know how best to describe it. Actually, even looking back quite a bit to before I was actively making work, it seems I was still interested in things that were going to take me there or somewhere like it.

What is your creative process like? Do you have a set schedule? Music? Coffee? Cigarettes? Where do you begin?

RT: Well. I would say the process is a factory to find ways via different means, to certain endpoints. But there isn't much that's standardized or mechanical about it. Along the way, I guess there is sensitivity to great many things.  There is often a beginning phase of investigation (into materials, ideas, processes), after which I make determinations. Eventually there become series/projects underway, but it is never a straight line. And so there are times when the motivation or the solutions to working need to come from the outside. Consequently in the studio I do read, look at old work, write, listen to music, leave, etc.

The titles of your work involve the names and codes of the ceiling panels used within each work.  Though the other pieces of information within the titles are rather abstract, can you expand on the remaining information within the titles?

For instance: Ultima 1917a N 04/13/11 Made 05/24/11 US pat nose 628451 6103360 5888626 5874161 09:09 (first) 2011.

RT: Thus far, the titles of these works always come from text that’s been printed on the back of the tiles, during manufacture. You’re exactly right that they're a variety of codes, some more clearly comprehensible than others. When I was finishing the first works I made in this manner in late 2010, it only seemed natural when it came time to think about titles, to use this text that had already in some sense been assigned. This is especially because I am drawn to a few of the details they do include, such as a date and time stamped onto the given materials.

Although I don't always like having to encounter artworks through titles, I do believe these titles reflect some of what you discover working with mass-produced objects such as these.

When did you begin experimenting with ceiling panels and for what reason were you attracted to this material?

RT: I would say in spite of the prevalence of this certain material, it's not primarily something materialistic that interested me in making these works. I was drawn to the ceiling tile not as a material object in itself per se, but – along with the related grid – as a physical presence that characterizes a larger orchestrating structure.

I would say there is one clear logic prevalent in these works, in spite of the fact that they’re ultimately abstract. That logic is that in their typical, ubiquitous, highly utilitarian application, these materials are almost entirely ignorable. So in using these materials, I am working in a visual capacity that draws on but also contradicts a certain commonplace encounter or experience.

I don't know what is a better way to describe how my works function against this background. You could say the materials result in works that are equally silent and detached - I certainly modeled them on the austere system these objects are designed for. But I also do believe that, in the context of these artworks, some of the more ethereal qualities of this particular real-world system come to light. This includes the very existence of these products, as the results of a distanced and abstracted method of production. But it also has to do with their intended design and function, and the greater significance of the spaces they're created for.

You created a particularly interesting work where you laser etched the Bayeux tapestry upon a series of Maxon Verse office panel walls.  Can you discuss this work for HUNTED PROJECTS?

RT: As you allude to, this is was an involved and large-scale work. I think it will help to describe it a little...

The piece consists of forty-eight inter-locked cubicle partitions. The particular make of cubicle panels that I used includes partial Plexiglas windows, and onto all of these windows, viewers will find that somewhat decipherable imagery has been transcribed. I employed a readily available laser-cutting process to cut the imagery of an Eleventh-Century embroidery-- known as the Bayeux Tapestry -- into the windows of these cubicle partitions. The illustrations run as they do in the original tapestry, sequentially left to right, beginning to end, from the first cubicle partition, to the last (a graphics program transformed reproductions of the original tapestry into cut instructions).

So in this work, if you will - via the whole string of office panels, and this digital and industrial mark-making process, the original medieval work's narrative has been circumscribed in these modern modes and materials. Some of those events are war, invasion, politics, changes in power, bad omens, and victory for some, along with defeat for others.  A lot happens in the tapestry, in a sense it resists summarization.

What were the difficulties that you faced when both creating and exhibiting this particular work?  Where was this work installed?

RT: The work was made to coincide with a large group show at a relatively raw space here in New York. I had been thinking through the material of the cubicle partition since one found its way into my studio at the time. At some point I began to make a connection between this type of object, and this ancient tapestry. I was taken with the tapestry's formal peculiarity - it was this long snaking narrative object. Originally the thought was to make only a section of the tapestry, but I realized making the entirety of it was what it really meant to solidify the association I was interested in.

Regarding its experiential and spatial requirements, what is the future of this work?

RT: I would say the piece gains traction the more space it has around it. This must be a matter of the power both space and perspective can wield on our experience, and it applies thematically, since in the piece a viewer encounters a scenic narrative / line of cubicles. Another feature of this work is that the configuration of the cubicle partitions is adjustable to a given space. This marries material and function. So I believe that - perhaps even unusually - the work can benefit from several futures.

Can you discuss some of your influences and explain how these have had an impact upon your work?

RT: I think that I conceive of and realize the works I make against a backdrop of many art practices I'm familiar with, and knowledge of many related known ideologies. Several years back, I did discover Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project. That (unfinished) book had and continues to have a considerable affect on how I view the world. Recently, I have also really appreciated Martin Kippenberger's Metro-Net, a proposed subway he built entrances to in Canada and an Island in Greece. This may sound strange, but New York is high on the list of influences I experience, it can amaze me continually.

What would you recognize as the ideal starting point for an artwork?

RT: I think that is largely dependent on a number of particularities. It depends how someone thinks, what someone does, and what someone wants to make happen. When attitudes become form...

Can you tell HUNTED PROJECTS what creative projects you have planned for the near future?

RT: I am currently working simultaneously within ongoing projects, on some new series of work, and with some relatively new intentions that haven't yet become full-fledged ideas. I believe I'll get to present these in different instances in the upcoming future. About several things currently up in the air I won't yet divulge the details.

Raphael Taylor

All images courtesy of Raphael Taylor