Amadea Bailey: La Vie, en Rose ESSAY WRITTEN BY ART CRITIC FOR LA WEEKLY, SHANA NYS DAMBROT   “I grew up in East Africa,” says painter Amadea Bailey, “where I developed a deep appreciation for the equatorial light. I missed that at Yale and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where I lived in the 1980s. Recently, I have been in a bit of a rediscovery period, and part of that has been a much bolder palette.” Bailey is in her studio, contemplating the work for her solo presentation, which will encompass never-shown works from the last five years. The question at hand is one of relationships -- between previous work she’s known for, the new work she’s engrossed with, and how that continuum unfolds in her practice. Her show is called Expressions, in an evocative but ambiguous nod to potential meanings. It could refer to facial features, for there are people in these works for the first time; or to figures of speech, as these complex compositions also include text, also for the first time. There are echoes of art historical tropes of abstraction, which do point to her ongoing work in gestural, monumental color field textures. Broadly speaking, cultures manifest themselves in a plurality of ways, as do individual personalities. In Bailey’s works, it is all of the above and a further wealth of enchanting nuances besides. Across a series of large and smaller-scale mixed media paintings on canvas, and despite the freshness of her current figurative idiom, Bailey’s vision is always tethered to color. For example where her abstractions often orchestrate their array of natural, rarefied, European art historical colors from a masculine, academic universe, these more message-driven canvases do not bother with an organic palette. Instead she favors intense and luminous buttercup yellows, blood and neon oranges, and shimmering blues. Of her symphonic pinks she says, “I thought I hated pink, but I fell in love with it once I examined my resistance!” In the evolution of the contradictions and multitudes contained in her vision, engagement is always the goal. It always has been. Where her abstracts dealt directly with the body, perhaps it’s fair to say Expressions engages with the mind, and communicates with the extended human family. Her single and paired figures stand with the confident front-facing stance of totem or cave-paintings, or street art. Her chromatic tempests resolve themselves into heavily layered pictorial scenes, proper figures anchoring a shifting landscape, and with something to say. This is where the text-based elements are activated. “Fake news,” “This is a mess. Yes but…,” “one love,” “peace,” “in the zone,” “la vie en rose.” Bailey’s sense for tribal pattern, urban materials, and ethereal narratives has inspired not only the complexification of her painting style, but also the introduction of certain collage elements, such as maps and pages of poetry or sheet music, or small-scale objects and studio detritus. Like the writings, she’d have you believe these were more or less random, but they are the piano etudes of her youth, and books that meant something to her like Marguerite Duras’ The Lover. The kind of intentional improvisation guiding the introduction and integration of text, symbols, images and figures into the abstract mode sets up a conversation between the world and the self. Intimacy, politics, enlightenment, affirmation, and memory all have a place in this discourse.  While it’s not quite as tidy as portraits with wisdoms for the world -- in fact it’s more like missives for her coming from her own psyche -- still there are choices being made, stories being roughed in, and reactions to the conditions of the world outside the studio. Bailey calls it all “a journey of unraveling,” but by the looks of the canvases, the dynamic is less of a dissolve and more of a cumulative awareness, a world bringing itself into being, and expressing itself with a bold new voice. -- Shana Nys Dambrot Los Angeles 2019   

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