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Radcliffe Bailey

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Radcliffe Bailey
20th century
(Bridgeton, New Jersey, 1968 - )

Works: Atlanta, Georgia, 1987-present. Radcliffe Bailey refers to himself as a sculptor who paints. Combining found objects retrieved from trash piles and yard sales with copies of vintage photographs given to him by his grandmother, he builds wall-hung works of considerable weight and dimension. Carefully unified by a quilt-inspired grid, Bailey’s assembled layers—of painted wood, curling tarpaper and glistening tar, crude pouches coated with red Georgia clay, and a gourd-guarded photo niche with seashell—resonate with nostalgic association. He says he is most interested in the redemption of these objects and their transformation to “something useful” as part of his artmaking, which he sees as a ritual of healing and transcendence. Steeped in urban life and studied in African and African American culture, Bailey’s ambition is to preserve the stories and memories of the African diaspora, to resurrect unrecorded history and accomplishment, and restate them within the context of his own, contemporary American values and experience. Bailey’s works present the synthesis of his research about art and spiritual practices in Congo, Nigeria, the Caribbean and African American culture. They are unique and totally authentic statements enriched further by his clear reading of modernist painting, his emulation of the risk-taking improvisations of jazz history and the contemporary discontinuities of hip-hop sampling, and by his appreciation of the poetic, intuitive and mystical.

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