Radcliffe Bailey

USA (1968). Lives and works in Atlanta.

Windward Coast – West Coast Slave Trade, 2009–2011
Piano keys, plaster cast bust, and metallic paint
Large-scale installation (various dimensions)

With Southern slaves and Union soldiers for ancestors (in the American Civil War), Bailey references identity by incorporating themes and objects from his family history. In this manner, he recovers both individual and collective memory, the sum of which defines our identities.

He uses a variety of media—paint, sculpture, drawing, and installation—objects and materials from his personal and historical past, blending them collage-style: sea water, red clay from Georgia, and old family photographs. Bailey conceives the individual as a make-up of stories, stories that he communicates in his work, posing the concepts of otherness—almost universally imposed—and social categorization, both as applied to the individual as well as to art and culture.

Windwar Coast—West Coast Slave Trade is an ocean of piano keys from which a black head emerges, suggesting the ocean crossed by African slaves on their journey to America. He juxtaposes the idea of separation that an ocean implies with that of communication that music suggests, incorporating issues of race, the struggle for survival, and sacrifice.

Having rarely exhibited outside of the United States, Bailey’s participation in the Cartagena Biennalle represents a great opportunity to see his work in an international context.