Lunch #1 with Radcliffe Bailey


Last week, I called Radcliffe Bailey, my former professor at the University of Georgia, and asked him, “so what would you like for lunch?”

Radcliffe quickly replied, “oh you know… anything is fine, really.”

Radcliffe Bailey’s name holds an immediate weight. Throughout his career of art making, Radcliffe has been creating visual lyrics of his people, history, and myth in forms of painting, sculpture, and installation. Radcliffe’s work reveals one of the most sensitive and poignant grasp regarding specific context of black history and Atlanta. Deeply rooted in his community, friends and family whom he grew up with, Radcliffe resides in Atlanta with his studio and house. I visited his studio for first time right after my undergraduate, and as a 20 year old something, I remember being in awe of scale and sophistication of his space.

I was now back in his studio again with a bag of Tin Drum noodles. I really had no specific agenda other than eating and conversing with him.

“So… hey, what do you need me to do? Do you need me to pull some works out or something?”

“Oh no. We are gonna just eat and talk. Is that ok?" 

"Oh, yea. Let me pull out some bowls then.”

The specific choice of what I may bring for lunch did not seem to matter so much to him. So I ordered in two noodles: Pad Thai and Cantonese Noodle. We sat down and awkwardly opened the lunch bowls and started eating. I kept in touch with him in the past years and would catch up over casual coffee sips, but this constructed setting of ‘eating together’ was something that we both had to warm up to. Eventually we started to talk as we normally would.

“So what are you up to?” Radcliffe asks. 

“Oh, you know…”

I talked about past few months of traveling and working, attempting… and realized from our conversation that such 'an attempt,’ this transient and mobile navigation between projects and people is just a continual thing, it’s not just an emerging artist’s status of 'I’m trying to figure out.’


Our lunch lasted about 3 hours. 

Really, it was a long conversation over due wrestling with ideas of art making, business of art, residencies, names of black thinkers and artists like James Baldwin, a new landscape of the city Atlanta in its demographics and food, my father, his father, my nephew and his children, travels and friendship, flying to Milan to just walk and talk with a dear friend, coming back to Atlanta to negotiate your role and responsibilities, galleries, New York City, Hong Kong, music, democracy, 80s, white flight, immigrating, moving, growing up, Atlanta College of Art, High, people, general public, accessibility of arts and culture, infrastructure, fragmentation (or segregation), race that matters, identity of the city,  curators who are friends, artists and more artists, San Diego, The Heat and the Spurs, observance… on and on.

#black artists #black thinkers #contemporary african art
#race #community #role
#hat #pride #presence

At the end, I asked Radcliffe -

“So I will be doing this next few months, bringing lunch boxes to artists’ studio space, that space that may be sacred and private to them. Or it could be otherwise. I want to be sensitive to that as I visit each studio, you know… what is that 'studio space’ for you?”

“Ah… it is where I can sit and think and ponder. Where I can put things, where I can lay my books. It’s wherever I go. I get to a hotel and open my watercolor set and make that into my little studio. It cannot really leave you.”

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Here is a beautiful article regarding Radcliffe Bailey’s work and context.

Lunch #2 is with Katherine Taylor. Stay tuned!

- Gyun