A Spiritual Journey
The School, gallerist Jack Shainman’s exhibition space in Kinderhook, NY, creates an unforgettable voyage through time and space in the new show titled "Travelogue".
By Miss Rosen
25 Broad St, Kinderhook, NY 12106
On view Saturdays through October 6, '18.
11am - 6pm until Labor day. Post Labor day Saturdays 11am-5pm. Or by appointment.
Photos Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery
We walk along the pathless path through time and space, on an infinite journey of continuous departures and arrivals. It is only when we stop to pause that we begin to see how we came to be here and now although our presence in the present may still be shrouded in layers of mystery, of histories untold, and of forces unknown.
The voyage into existence, one which we all make as we cross the terrestrial plane, extends far beyond the physical world as it takes shape in the intangible realm of perception, emotion, and idea. Those who are called to manifest this wisdom are known to us as artists or shamans depending on where and when they work. Their creations reveal layers of knowledge that meet us where we are, ready to guide us to a new level of understanding of ourselves and the world.
In Travelogue, a survey exhibition at The School in Kinderhook on view Saturdays through the fall, African-American artist Radcliffe Bailey takes on a trip we won’t soon forget. The voyage begins as we ascend the steps inside The School and are greeted by Windward Coast – West Coast Slave Trade (2009–2018), a sweeping installation of thousands of piano keys, assembled to suggest the rough, choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean during the Middle Passage. Here, inside this silent storm, a slave ship navigates its way through, while a disembodied black head that glitters in the light bobs far away on its own, reminding us of all who have been lost to history.
“My goal is to bring important shows to this area, with artists of our time who comment on socio-political topics. At a moment when our culture is so polarized, I want to present exhibitions that generate conversation about the issues facing our country.” — Jack Shainman
“There is only the fight to recover what has been lost / And found and lost again and again,” T.S. Eliot wrote in Four Quartets (1943). This fight need not be a struggle so much as a campaign, an undertaking of majestic scope that brings together that which has been torn apart, honoring the history of a people who have survived against the odds.
Bailey’s Travelogue is an investigation into the movement of his people on two continents over centuries, exploring his familial relationships in an array of work that includes wood cabinets featuring photographs of distant relations set amid symbolic still lifes as well as Untitled (2006), a mixed media painting of Bailey’s DNA sequence.
“I have always been curious about my family history,” Bailey explains. “I felt a connection to different parts of West Africa. I researched my DNA on my mother’s side and traced it to parts to Sierra Leone and Guinea, to the Mende, where women controlled and ran society. That reminds me of my mother.”
The path from past and present is illuminated by the nearby presence of a Mende mask from Sierra Leone that Bailey created in 2011 based on one in the collection of the High Museum in Atlanta. The mask reminds us of the power inherent in the ritualized object, where art and spiritually fuse into a holistic expression of existence, making it an integrated part of communal life. Here, the mask’s journey echoes that of the people, refashioning itself to adapt to the “New World.”
Bailey observes, “Even though the mask has been taken out of context and put into a museum still has its same power because it has guided itself in front of us. To encounter it the same way I encountered photographs from family members, it’s like the strength, power, and purpose of those objects have a presence today in a different way. To me, it was like trying to trace those presences.”
In this way, Travelogue reveals the many trails that simultaneously co-exist, be it the Underground Railroad to freedom or Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line back to Africa, the solar system of Sun Ra’s “Other Worlds” or the Dikenga cosmogram that gave the people of the Kongo knowledge of self and their place in the universe. In Bailey’s work, there are infinite access points – be it subject or medium, style or design – to access the messages he delivers in soaring, majestic works or intimate collages that are lyrical poems rendering in silence.
As we go along Bailey’s Travelogue, a sweeping symphony can be heard in the mind’s ear. “Music was my first form of DNA: of understanding sound and rhythm, relating to those different things and looking at the piano keys as a form of DNA, be it sound. It’s almost as if I want to create soundtracks for history,” the artist reveals.
After completing Travelogue, a new adventure awaits as The School is concurrently showing a series of solo exhibitions by Nina Chanel Abney, Shimon Attie, Math Bass, Valérie Blass, Vibha Galhotra, Brad Kahlhamer, Margaret Kilgallen, Lyne Lapointe, Gordon Parks, and Leslie Wayne.
Each of the artists on view offers a different thread into the complex interweaving of trails of life, giving us a panoply of vantage points that expand our perspective about life. Here, we are invited to engage with a diverse array of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and video that take us from Harlem to the Moon.
As we leave the exhibition, we may encounter Travellers, a luminous red 1995 photograph by Gordon Parks. It is a potent and poetic reminder that we must continue the journey on our own, comforted in the knowledge that we can draw strength, courage, and solace from the masterful works of art now on view at The School.
“As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul,” Greek philosopher Hermes Trismegistus understood, speaking of the fundamental connection that exists of all who inhabit the earth.
Left to right: Untitled (Sarow), c. 1997. Untitled (Ever), c. 1997. Untitled (Measure-Up), c. 1997 All by Margaret Kilgallen