This exhibition will include the eighth iteration of Windward Coast, Bailey’s magnum opus that grew out of his earlier experimentation, Storm at Sea, created in 2008 for NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith.
Bailey first created Windward Coast in 2010 while in residence at Florida’s Atlantic Center for the Arts. Both Windward Coast and Storm at Sea are site specific, large-scale installations, made of piano keys—including the long sounding devices that stretch into the body of the instrument—strewn across the floor to look like the surface of the sea. In Storm at Sea, a dance staff made for Shango—the Yoruba deity, arbiter of divine justice—confronts a representation of a slave ship faltering in turbulent water, its surface sparkling as though lit by a starry night sky. In Windward Coast, a single head painted iridescent black represents a man of African ancestry made from a nineteenth century mold. He appears to float, alone in the water, glimmering in darkness.
When Windward Coast was presented within Memory as Medicine in 2011, Bailey added another element to amplify its musical aspect. A large seashell was installed high in the corner just above the massive accumulation of piano keys. From it emanated the sound of the keys dropping to the floor as Bailey first created the work, recorded at the time, while listening to John Coltrane’s Love Supreme. How the artist will draw on the spirit of the city to create the next iteration of Windward Coast for CAC remains to be seen, as he performs it for New Orleans.
The exhibition will include a small set of works dedicated to the Yoruba trickster deity who is also the artist’s alter ego: Eshu-Elegba, mediator of opposites who brings together different worlds. These two- and three-dimensional works include a top hat lined with rabbit fur and a nearly life size image, made from a tintype, of an African American man in elegant dress wearing a tall hat, seated cross-legged, looking like an apparition about to disappear or reappear in a puff of smoke.
Other recent works reflect the artist’s love of making big things. These large-scale, minimalist, abstract sculptural works—at once both two- and three-dimensional—project both pathos and a profound sense of serenity, with a hypnotic, repetitive aesthetic similar to Japanese rock gardens. A gargantuan, out-of-scale, nearly ten foot high wood sculpture in the form of a music stand presides over the entire creative orchestration, as visual art, music, and performance become one in this gathering of Bailey’s most recent works.
Carol Thompson, Curatorial Advisor
Organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; Carol Thompson, Curatorial Advisor for this exhibition and the Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art, High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.