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William F. Taylor: Urban Plein Air

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William F. Taylor: Urban Plein Air

By Charlie Pendergast

Two important exhibitions of the urban plein air paintings of Santa Rosa’s Bill Taylor are scheduled at both the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and the Occidental Center for the Arts. Spanning five decades, these paintings comprise a body of heretofore unrecognized and unseen work. They are coming out of storage and being exhibited as part of a show entitled Your Landscape in Sebastopol through November 27.  

St. Philips Church Termite WrapTaylor, who just turned 89, has been painting urban landscapes since the 60s. He paints plein air while seated in the driver’s seat of his car. Parked in front of all the iconic buildings on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles he has produced dozens of paintings; working swiftly, arriving early to get parking spaces, and struggling against the obstructions of pedestrians, scaffolding, large trucks, and, occasionally, a policeman writing tickets. 

Born in 1927 Taylor has lived most of his life in Sonoma County except for two decades in Los Angeles where he worked in graphic design. A naturalist, he studied zoology at Berkeley, graduating with a B.A. in 1951, and has been a revered contributor of bird specimens to the Academy of Science in San Francisco since the 40s.

The Los Angeles paintings are almost all of buildings on Sunset Boulevard as they looked in the 60s and 70s, including Jerry Lewis’s night club, the Playboy Club, Gazzarris, and the Trocadero Pharmacy. In San Francisco Bill painted the homes and apartments and hospitals from the hillsides opposite, as well as the DeYoung museum before the big remodel and after.

Jerry LewisBill Taylor’s work represents decades of hard work and devotion, as well as representing a deft skill as both draftsman and colorist. He works in oil, acrylic and watercolors. His many watercolors of the streets and buildings in Occidental, also covering almost five decades are unique and accomplished with extraordinary simplicity and elegance. 

The Occidental Center for the Arts will be putting up this show in January entitled Onsite, comprised of landscapes by Charles Beck, Dave Gordon and Bill Taylor, all highlighting West Sonoma County. The show will run from January 19 through the end of March.

Both shows are sponsored, in part, by the RiskPress Foundation.