Storm at Sea : installation, variable dimensions, 2007, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Radcliffe Bailey’s installation explores the Middle Passage with leitmotifs associated with black experience of the transatlantic slave trade. These elements — a ship, bobbing human heads, and the sea itself represented by piano keys— are heavily charged with symbolism and history in a contemporary context. On the floor they are put together to evoke a historical narrative, each of the elements command equal attention. The ship is cloaked in a glittery black paint to attend a cosmic dimension to the installation. The ship and heads are placed atop a tumult of piano keys. Piano keys are a recurring medium in Bailey’s work. Here they convey layers of meaning and experiences. The piano keys are both the waves of the ocean and the hypothetical splintered remains of a ship wrecked by the storm. They also represent the bones of all who were lost during the infamous transatlantic slave trade.
Radcliffe Bailey was born in Bridgeton, New Jersey, USA in 1968. He obtained a BFA from Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta, USA in 1991. He currently lives and works in Atlanta, USA. He considers himself forever a student of the “Then and Now”. Trained as a painter and sculptor, he utilizes the layering of imagery, culturally resonant materials and text, to explore themes of ancestry, race and memory. He believes that by translating his personal experiences, he can achieve an understanding of, and healing from, a universal history. His work is often made from found materials and certain pieces from his past and present. This includes traditional African sculpture, tintypes of family members, piano keys and Georgia red clay. Highly experimental artist who have enjoyed tremendous success,