States Of Being

Altered Destiny

May 24 – Jun 29, 2007
513 West 20th Street New York, NY 10011

Press Release


Altered Destiny

May 24 – June 29, 2007

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 24, 2007, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Opening on May 24, 2007, Jack Shainman gallery is pleased to present an exhibition by Atlanta-based artist Radcliffe Bailey. This will be Bailey’s fourth solo exhibition at Jack Shainman and comprises a new body of drawings, a collage, a cabinet wall sculpture, a mixed-media book, and several sculptures that employ both the walls and the floor of the gallery.

Inspired in part by a recent trip to Senegal, Bailey’s new works continue his exploration of African and African-American themes within the larger context of travel and discovery. One collage is based on “The Door of No Return” on Gorée Island in Senegal – an open window to the ocean which stands as a haunting reminder of the brutality of the European slave trade. In other works on paper, Bailey uses Marcus Garvey’s 1920’s failed Black Star Line as a point of departure. Operated by Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association from 1919 to 1922, the steamship line was introduced as a means of transporting manufactured goods and raw materials among black-owned businesses in North America, Africa and the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the ships that Garvey purchased were faulty, and, plagued by financial problems and mismanagement, the business folded in 1922. Bailey’s drawings of seaworthy ships seek to re-make Garvey’s follies.

Destination Unknown, a small work in alabaster with a functioning light inside, depicts a man with a team of sled dogs after African-American North Pole explorer Matthew Henson. An orphan by age 11 and a store clerk when he was invited to be explorer Robert E. Peary’s valet, Henson accompanied Peary on an expedition to the North Pole in 1909. Over several years spent in the Artic, Henson, who was illiterate before the journey, perfected his sledding skills, learned the Eskimo’s native language, and actually arrived at the destination point ahead of Peary. Although he was posthumously awarded the Hubbard Medal by the National Geographic Society, Henson’s accomplishments were largely overshadowed during his lifetime. Bailey gives overdue consideration to Henson in a work that both commemorates and demystifies a unique event in recent American history.

The largest work on display incorporates hundreds of piano keys, a found African sculpture, several ship sculptures covered in black glitter, and a metronome. Eerily suggestive, the work spills across the floor, nearly inhibiting passage into the gallery. In this and in all of the works, Bailey’s skillful combinations of objects are exemplified; some remain in their found states while others are carefully manipulated with paint, collage, and assemblage. Foregoing cynicism and mere nostalgia, Bailey asks that we reconsider the accuracy of recorded history by way of the cumulative connotations of objects and images.

Bailey was the subject of solo exhibitions at the New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT (2004); The Cheekwood Museum of Art, Nashville, TN (2003); Museum of the University of Houston, Houston, TX (2002); Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta, GA; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL (traveled to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, MO) (all 2001); Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC (both 1996); The Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC (1995); and The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC (1992). Among his many group exhibitions are Black Panther Rank and File, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; The Whole World is Rotten, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH (both 2006); Common Ground, Discovering Community in 150 Years of Art, Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC (2004); and Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Aikulapo-Kuti, the New Museum, New York, NY (traveled to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA) (2003-04).

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