Monday, February 27, 2012

Radcliffe Bailey at the Davis Museum, Wellesley College

This is a post sent in by BFAC member David Williams-Bulkeley, some of whose lovely work you can see on, in response to a BFAC suggested visit to the Radcliffe Bailey exhibition at the Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. The visit was made on Sunday, February 26, 2008, the exhibit is up for another month or two:

What a collection and what a fabulous space, one of the very best we agreed. Having not heard of Mr. Radcliffe Bailey we went in with an open heart and mind as you do with such exhibitions and as often as not came away with mixed emotions. Beginning with an installation artist's dream scenario of a Romeo and Juliet parapet from which to view your large artwork we thought we were off to a good start. From Juliet's perspective we were greeted by a writhing, moving striated mass of chair legs which at once reminded us of river logging, one of man's great but controversial natural production lines. Being our maiden visit and with stairs either side of us going both down and up to other galleries of art, we were pulled with excitement to move further down and investigate. We are always loathe to read an artist's description of their pieces not through idleness but for the fear of spoiling our own deluded imaginations. So saddened that we had actually lost the feeling of movement in the work on Romeo's level we were this time forced to swallow some complacency and actually read the description. We discovered that the piece was about music, the African slave trade and that the wood used was from over 400 pianos. If he wanted to dismantle the sound machine and reinsert it into his art then where were the ebony pieces ? Yes, we were reminded of the terrible tragedies that hurricanes and tsunamis can create but what else could this now be about ?

Hoping that some of that music might flow through to other pieces we were encouraged by the breadth of materials used but were eventually let down by the relentless textbook art college approach to each subject which culminated with a model ship that had been coated in black crystals and had a jaunty top hat perched on top. The collages took us back to the theme of African heritage but surprised us with their similarities to the collages of Peter Beard.

Typical painter's reproach you might say, but it is hard to make a truly arresting piece of art !

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