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The Next Big Show: "Radcliffe Bailey Memory as Medicine" at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio
Radcliffe Bailey, American, born 1968. Windward Coast, 2009-2011. Piano keys, plaster bust, and glitter, dimensions vary. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

By: Haydeé Munoz

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- On November 8, 2011 the McNay Collectors Forum selected Radcliffe Bailey’s Procession as a new acquisition for their permanent collection. In Procession, the artist builds a shadowbox around a painting adding culturally significant images and objects that recall the history of the American South and Bailey’s ancestral past. This example of Bailey’s “medicine cabinet” sculptures, illustrates perfectly the artist’s intense awareness of African American history and social consciousness. As many other works by the artist, Procession incorporates water inspired imagery, such as ships, oars, fishing nets, and ripples, to evoke the traumatic history of the transatlantic slave trade and the role of the waterways in economic and cultural life in the South. With rich colors, thick paint application, and a sensitive and accessible approach, the artist incorporates his African ancestry by using old photographs from relatives and integrating tribal art in his own work.

Radcliffe Bailey was born in Bridgeton, New Jersey, in 1968, but he moved to Atlanta when he was only four years old. He attended Atlanta College of Art and graduated with a BFA in 1991. Bailey’s career emerged from his fascination with Atlanta’s history and the deeply rooted past eminent in the South. The artist is probably one of the most prolific painters alive in the region of Atlanta and , in the last two decades, he has, undoubtedly, produced some of the most distinctive art in America by inserting memories of the African American memory in the American mind. His powerful and emotional work is very honest, which has made the artist’s career a huge success. Bailey received the Johnnie L. Cochran Art Fund Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts and the Gibes Museum of Art Factor Prize. His work can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Art Institute of Chicago, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and now, at the McNay Art Museum.

After organizing Andy Warhol: Fame and Misfortune, the McNay’s curatorial team, led by curator Rene Barilleaux, is now planning another big show. Opening on June 6, Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine will display a celebration of African American story and the artist’s personal discoveries about his family origins. With works such as his “medicine cabinet” sculptures and Windward Coast, a stunning installation in which a glittery black head floats among a sea composed of wooden piano keys from over 400 pianos, the artist uses memory as medicine: an instrument to restore himself. By going back to his ancestors and his place of origin, Sierra Leona and Guinea, the artist reflects on African American history and his own experience. The traveling exhibition was curated by Carol Thompson, curator of African Art at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The largest museum exhibition of Radcliffe Bailey’s work, will now be showcased in San Antonio at the McNay Museum of Art.

For more information about Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine please go to the museum’s website

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