Composition 21 by Naama Tsabar
September 28 – September 29, 2019
The Nasher Museum has installed Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey as the first sculpture in the new sculpture park, which opened September 28, 2019. Read more about this below.
Vessel is a 13-foot cone of steel with an open ceiling that creates a skyscape, while a conch shell perched high emanates an ambient soundscape. The conch shell in Vessel loosely alludes to ocean crossings and the Middle Passage in the Atlantic slave trade, recurring themes in the artist’s work. Music is also a recurring subject in Bailey’s work. Bailey takes an uplifting and transporting approach with Vessel, bringing visitors closer to a spiritual journey into the unknown.
Vessel is the second work by Bailey to enter the Nasher Museum’s collection. The first, Levitate, is a mixed-media work from 2012. The long vessel in the work is based on a fishing boat the artist first encountered when visiting Senegal. The object appears to float in front of the tarp, similar to the way a magician makes an assistant levitate. The black glitter that covers the boat recurs in Bailey’s works and is suggestive of the shimmering quality of Haitian Voodoo flags, which are covered in reflective sequins. The tarp in the background is marked with symbols that are derived from visual languages as diverse as Haitian veve, Yoruba and Kongo cosmology, and African American Carolina metalwork. Together these markings form a mystical navigational language of the artist’s creation, and the boat becomes a transcendent vessel that can carry one to another realm. In Levitate, the artist’s reference to the Middle Passage in the Atlantic slave trade is less historically precise and more spiritually evocative.
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