Kool Kat of the Week: Radcliffe Bailey Journeys Through Water, Blues and Blood at the High

Posted on: Jun 23rd, 2011 By:

Piano keys normally appear in organized rows and it’s the player who touches them out of order and creates waves of sound that become music to our ears. We listeners only see the front and top part—white or black—and not the full length that connects with the strings within the instrument itself. Across a wide expanse of hardwood floor of a gallery at the High Museum of Art, however, cast-off keys literally ebb and flow like tides in a storm—broken only by one lone dark head rising above the water.

In the case of  this installation titled Windward Coast, the description on the walls speaks about how the work “evokes the Middle Passage, a defining experience that shaped the traumatic history of the Black Atlantic Diaspora.” But artist Radcliffe Bailey says his view of the ocean was multidimensional including also the harbinger of destruction as in Hurricane Katrina and the serenity of fishing with his father. “There’s also this calm,” he says, speaking softly, almost shyly for a man who creates such large, dynamic works. Unlike some artists thrust into the public spotlight, his posture is self-effacing, naturally casual in jeans and a blue plaid jacket striking for its lightweight texture.

Radcliffe is at the High today to participate in a preview tour for media of RADCLIFFE BAILEY: MEMORY AS MEDICINE, the most comprehensive exhibition of his works to date, opening this Sunday June 26 and running through Sept. 11 at the High. Born and bred in Atlanta, his parents brought him to the High as a child and he graduated from the High-affiliated Atlanta College of Art in 1991. In the years since then, both the 40-year-old artist  and the museum have matured into globally-renowned figures in fine art. Frankly it’s nice to see that the High now feels comfortable enough in its own shoes not only to display a homegrown master but also to remind the global art community that not just commerce but also culture does happen in a city that often seems cockily focused on its business and sports achievements.

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