Artist Radcliffe Bailey conducts a unique form of artistic alchemy through the use of his keen sense of curiosity, his penchant for found materials, and his mined memory that he combines to preserve the legacies of people who may otherwise be forgotten to time.
Bailey’s practice draws on specific memories, one of which is a vivid recollection of the time his grandmother gave him an album of 400 family photos. She could only recall the names of about 30% of them, but rather than let those cherished images fade, the artist incorporated them into his layered collages, paintings and installations. His work is infused with layers of meaning and personal reference points that also somehow leave the works open to various interpretations by the viewer.
Listening to him talk about his work is fascinating because he opens up about his practice in a relatable way that draws you into various influences that inform his work.
Jazz and Blues are heavy musical influences that are brought into pieces that grapple with the travesties of the middle passage and subsequent brutalities taking place in Jim Crow south. Whether it’s rendered in music or art, the dichotomy between beauty and pain that coexist within a singular artistic moment is summed up quite saliently by an artist talk Bailey gave in 2012, “the rhythm is beautiful, the pain is real.”