Radcliffe Bailey: Made in Atlanta

Lauded visual artist talks living and creating in the city

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HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS: Radcliffe Bailey at his studio in Southwest Atlanta
| Joeff Davis photos

When discussing the work of Radcliffe Bailey, local art heavyweight Karen Comer Lowe is quick to point out why the famed ATL-based artist is significant and deserving of the accolades that are routinely bestowed on him. "Radcliffe's work is important because of both its historical significance and his layered approach," says Lowe. "The main pieces in his body of work, which typically uses found objects and archival photos as central elements, reflect a Southern aesthetic. But more than anything, he makes the kind of art you can always discover something new about over time."

And trust that Lowe knows what she's talking about. She serves as the director of the Chastain Arts Center (we at Creative Loafing even named her Best Curator in our 2017 Best of Atlanta special issue), and she's known Bailey since the earliest days of his career. So when we recently reached out and asked her to name artists in the city worthy of more recognition, Bailey was the first on her list. But take note: Her admiration is based not just on the uncompromising quality of his work which ranges from paintings to sculpture and mixed media pieces but also on the fact that, as an artist whose work is celebrated internationally and primarily exhibited at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City, he continues to live and create in Atlanta.

That said, as a new large-scale work by the artist titled "Conduits of Contact" was unveiled at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in late August, Lowe visited him at his home and studio for a rare interview with Bailey, where he opened up on making art in the ATL, his views on the local scene and more. After the interview, check out more of Karen Comer Lowe's picks for artists to watch.

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On why he chooses not to move to New York City: I don't want to be in New York. There is just too much going on. I like my space. In the neighborhood I grew up in, it's somewhat of a security blanket. And I enjoy that the warmth of that. I enjoy being able to work within a space where I'm not just in the midst of art every day, because art isn't everything. There are other things that go on. I need peace to be able to make work, and Atlanta has given me that kind of space. I don't know of any other place like this.

On the unique benefits of living in Atlanta: You know what we have here in the city? We have an airport, which happens to be one of the largest airports in the world an airport that can take you anywhere in the world. So, we have something that's wonderful that we can take advantage of in terms of physical travel. You can show up two hours later to another city, and you can get to the airport and it's not that complicated. That's no matter where you live, but we have something that's a little more at our fingertips.

“I need peace to be able to make work, and Atlanta has given me that kind of space.” — Radcliffe Bailey

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His thoughts about the local art scene: I'm not critical on the art scene here. I love the art scene here, but I don't necessarily have the time to be involved in it the way a lot of people get involved in art. Because it's not where my career is. It's like I just don't find myself locked into going to do a lot. I kind of just want to be on my own. It's like I just enjoy that space.

On the how the art world has changed since his early days: Throughout the whole art world, there's more of an acceptance of artists of color and younger artists in general. You know, I think the art world is constantly growing. It's like moving at a pace that's unpredictable, and I think that's beautiful. But I've learned throughout time that it's not necessarily about the place that gives you income, but it's about the place that gives you mental income.

Reflecting on his legacy: I don't know if I think about it as "legacy;" I think about it more like ... the younger people call it "brand." But, no, I don't think about that kind of stuff. I have my own pace. I'm doing that on purpose. Because I want to have my own pace. I want to be able to control my own life.

On the role of competition: I'm always competitive, but I'm not competitive with anyone else but myself. I don't care about anyone else. I see a lot of great stuff around the world, and I'm like wow. It's like everyone has a story to share.

As told to Karen Comer Lowe.


Karen Comer Lowe's other artist picks:

Yanique Norman

"Untitled 1"
| Yanique Norman

Jessica Caldas

"Carrying On (detail or Year 10)" | Jessica Caldas

Paul Benjamin

"God Bless America"
| Paul Stephen Benjamin