Water. Blues. Blood.
If you’ve ever stood face-to-face with a Radcliffe Bailey painting you’ll know what I mean when I say – haunting. His works seem to possess spirits. You can hear the moans and wails, the creaking of wooden ships, the tickle of piano keys, the gentle splash of boat oars piercing gently rippling waters. You find yourself transfixed and ultimately transported to memories embedded deep into your DNA. Memories you didn’t know you had. Memories as old as time and that bind all of us across racial, ethnic, religious, political and social borders.
Radcliffe Bailey is one of the most well-known artists in the world with a career that spans more than 20 years. His work is featured in some of the most prominent private and public collections world wide. And on June 28, 2011, for the first time ever, the most comprehensive exhibition of the Atlanta-based artist’s work will be talk of the town as it premieres at The High Museum.
Bailey’s exhibition timtled “Memory as Medicine” will feature seminal works from the artist’s catalogue, plus new works created specifically for this exhibition as well as some works that have never been displayed publicly.
“In this exhibition, visitors will discover Radcliffe’s ability to a combine sculpture and painting, two- and three-dimensional forms and grand and intimate scales, creating works of art that are rich in texture, detail, color and, most importantly, meaning,” stated Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director. “The High is pleased to debut this exhibition in Atlanta, underscoring the Museum’s continued commitment to celebrating the talents and legacies of our local artists.”
The exhibition will present Bailey’s work divided into three main themes: “Water,” “Blues” and “Blood.” Works included in the “Water” group will feature the artist’s references to the Black Atlantic as a site of historical trauma as well as an artistic and spiritual journey. “Blues” will highlight works that illustrate the importance of music as a transcendent artform, including Bailey’s 1999 painting “Transbluesency,” which references a book of poems by Amiri Baraka and echoes the “Blues” theme. The third theme, “Blood,” will feature works focusing on the ideas of ancestry, race, memory, struggle and sacrifice. This section will further explore the artist’s engagement with African sculptures in tandem with his investigation of his own family’s DNA.
At the core of the exhibition will be seven sets of “medicine cabinet sculptures.” Their contents include a broad range of culturally charged objects, imagery and raw materials, from indigo powder to tobacco leaves to Georgia red earth. Just as Kongo minkisi sculptures from central Africa contain healing and protective medicine within mirrored packets, the socially cathartic contents of Bailey’s medicine cabinet sculptures are deeply recessed under reflective, tinted glass. These sculptures were conceived to link the too often disconnected histories of peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora and to emphasize collective experiences.
“Radcliffe Bailey’s art is consistently informed by a strong social and historical consciousness, and solidly grounded in family and community. The exhibition combines a rich, narrative content with a high-level of abstraction and poetic resonance to explore questions of history and memory,” said Carol Thompson, the High’s Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art and curator of the exhibition. “Bailey’s art traces the complex network of his ‘aesthetic DNA’ to create an antidote to cultural and historical amnesia.”
Be sure to check out this landmark exhibit on display at The High Museum June 28- September 11, 2011.