Radcliffe Bailey

Celebrated Artist Radcliffe Bailey Dies at 54

The Atlanta-based artist's body of work encompassed the Black experience in America

Radcliffe Bailey, the artist known for his contributions to Black art, died after a long battle with brain cancer, ArtForum reported. He was 54.

He is survived by his wife, Leslie Parks Bailey; a daughter, Olivia; his son, Coles; and his parents, Radcliffe Sr. and Brenda.

Bailey’s art depicted the Black experience through paintings, sculpture, and mixed-media pieces. 

The artist often incorporated repurposed objects in his creations such the wooden piano keys used “Windward Coast–West Coast Slave Trade.” The display features a sequined head  sitting atop a “sea” of wooden piano keys and was featured in the Art In Common gallery in Chicago. The gallery label describes the meaning of the piano keys.

“This piece expresses his love of music, as well as the history, culture, and spirituality contained in the song. Here, the undulating keys are arranged to resemble the turbulent waters of Middle Passage.”

In an interview with the Brooklyn Rail, Bailey explained his process in selecting the materials for the 2021 piece, “Slow Blues.”

“I used indigo, and there’s that heavy, loaded meaning behind indigo, used as a crop during slavery, and also references the blues. It’s a mixture of all that. And the piece is in a cabinet, it’s not a frame; I refer to these works as medicine cabinets. The idea was that whenever you get sick, you go to the medicine cabinet to get something to make you feel better. I refer to memory as medicine.”

Bailey was born on November 25, 1968 in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and was raised in Atlanta.  He received his BFA from The Atlanta College of Art in 1991.

While in college, he established himself in the art world with his early works inspired by the hip-hop culture of the 1970s and 1980s.

Fans and friends took to social media to pay tribute, including former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Bailey’s childhood friend.

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