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Indepth Arts News:

"Radcliffe Bailey: The Magic City"
2001-03-23 until 2001-05-12
Forum for Contemporary Art
St. Louis, MO, USA

The first comprehensive exhibition of the work of artist Radcliffe Bailey, titled, The Magic City, opens at the Forum for Contemporary Art (FCA), Friday, March 23 and runs through May 12. Bailey, known for his large-scale, multimedia paintings and assemblages created around aspects of African and African American culture, makes his Midwest debut with this exhibition.

The exhibition comprised mostly of Bailey‚s paintings and works on paper also includes a 1,000-square-foot installation designed specifically for The Magic City and modified for the St. Louis site. The installation creates a unique environment that tells the story of this African American artist‚s identity and history. It combines photographic images and found objects, and includes local idioms, historical facts and cultural references unique to St. Louisans of African American heritage. The installation encompasses wall painting, sculpture and sound, and allow viewers to physically pass through it.

Paintings in the exhibition integrate Bailey‚s signature style of combining aspects of his African American cultural experience with components of expressionist painting. He draws upon a range of sources: historical events, popular culture, stately (yet unidentified) old family photographs, family memories and Yoruba traditions. By titling his exhibition The Magic City, Bailey deliberately invokes a historical moniker of Birmingham, while also referencing the pioneer free-jazz musician Sun Ra. To create the paintings for The Magic City, Bailey reviewed and photographed objects in the African collection at Birmingham Museum of Art. The artist combined the photographed sculpture and statuary with his ancestral photographs and other imagery to layer and

Birmingham Museum of Art Curator of Painting and Sculpture David Moos, Ph.D., describes Baileys work, . . . he creates dense pictorial fields that function like biographical maps to the historic past. Incorporating elements of collage and text, Bailey works in an improvisational manner orchestrating and integrating veiled and obvious meanings into his painting. The ecology of his work may include symbolic elements such as water from New Orleans, Georgia clay, or a concealed piece of cotton. Each painting engages multiple levels of meaning.

Bailey will conduct a hands-on workshop with the Forum for Contemporary Art student program, New Art in the Neighborhood (NAN). As a student Bailey participated in a similar art program geared toward inner city youth in Atlanta.

A catalogue of the exhibition, the first comprehensive publication of Baileys work, will be available. The Magic City opened at the Birmingham Museum of Art and will travel to The Art Museum of the University of Houston following its showing at FCA. The exhibition was organized by the Birmingham Museum of Art under the direction of David Moos, Ph.D., and is the first comprehensive museum exhibition of Bailey‚s work. The exhibition will feature eight major paintings, five large-scale works on paper and one room-sized installation.

Also on view March 23 through May 12 will be FCA Projects artist Su Sunny Park. Park will create an interactive installation that will occupy the stairwell of the Forum for Contemporary Art. The complexity of her work, which suggests the circle-of-life, will engage and mystify viewers.

The Forum for Contemporary Art enriches and educates the St. Louis community by presenting a broad range of media and topics representing todays artists. Its goal is to engage people of all ages in the appreciation and interpretation of contemporary art and ideas. In 2002 the museum will open a new building designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, Portland, Ore. It will be located at the corner of Spring Avenue and Washington Boulevard in St. Louis, Mo.

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