“Memory As Medicine”: The Art of Radcliffe Bailey

photo credit: Erik Lesser for The New York Times

There was a big piece a few weeks ago on the opening of an exhibit by visual artist Radcliffe Bailey at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. I remember meeting Radcliffe in the 90s here in NYC and seeing his large-scale, 3D collage-like paintings. Glad to see him getting the props he deserves. The Museum describes his show this way:

Atlanta-based, internationally known artist Radcliffe Bailey explores American history and memory to encourage healing and transcendence through art. The exhibition features 37 works ranging from heroic to intimate scale, including installations, paintings, sculptures, mixed media, photos on metal, and works on paper.

Michael Rooks, the High Museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art, said this about Radcliffe’s work:

Mr. Rooks, meanwhile, sees in Mr. Bailey’s work the influence of artists including Anselm Kiefer (in terms of scale and focus on identity and myth) and Peter Halley (in the way he uses a geometric architectural system to connect different zones of his paintings). “Radcliffe has this terrific visual acuity where he travels around the world and picks up ideas from artists of many different backgrounds and generations, throws them into his hopper and comes out with something completely original,” Mr. Rooks said.

And on the show’s highlight, an installation called “Windward Coast,” (below) the profile’s author, Hilarie Sheets, wrote:

. . .Mr. Bailey has created a rolling ocean of wooden keys harvested from some 400 pianos. A lone head, painted glittery black, bobs in this expanse, suggesting isolation and the trauma of the slave trade as well as recent natural disasters. Yet in this piece, as in all his work, Mr. Bailey fuses pain with transcendence. “I think about all the music that was probably played on those keys,” he said. “An ocean is something that divides people. Music is something that connects people. Duke Ellington or Thelonious Monk — it’s a different sound that takes you somewhere else. It’s also about being at peace.”

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