Works (Tap to zoom)
Radcliffe Bailey (1968-2023) was a painter, sculptor, and mixed media artist who utilized the layering of imagery, culturally resonant materials and text to explore themes of ancestry, race, migration and collective memory. His work often incorporated found materials and objects from his past into textured compositions, including traditional African sculpture, tintypes of his family members, ships, train tracks and Georgia red clay. The cultural significance and rhythmic properties of music were also important influences that can be seen throughout his oeuvre.
An iconic work of Bailey’s, Windward Coast–West Coast Slave Trade, is composed of hundreds of discarded piano keys. This piece expressed his love of music, as well as the history, culture and spirituality contained in song. Here, the undulating keys are arranged to resemble the turbulent waters of Middle Passage. The waters of this work are physically embodied by music, an intangible entity carried over to new worlds and a trans-generational vestige of African heritages.
Individual experience served as a departure point in Bailey’s quest to excavate the collective consciousness of African diasporas and regional American identities. Found objects and imagery present seemingly bygone pasts as contemporary, neon Northern Stars that lead us through Bailey’s constellation of works on view, exploring and interweaving our shared histories. Often quilt-like in aesthetic, his practice created links between diasporic histories and potential futures, investigating the evolution or stagnation of notions of identity.