Sculptor Ali Bailey’s new show “It’s the Real Thing” at Andrew Rafasz Gallery marks a sharp turn from his previous body of work. A master of the combination of found objects into mysterious conglomerates, this current work finds Mr. Bailey in more conventionally modernist terrain. The sculptural works in the exhibition mostly sit on plinths, are broadly geometrical and feature modernist colors.
One of the best of these is an open network of rough red beams constructed into an “A” frame. This abstract form at once nods to Modernist sculptors like Anthony Caro and department store shelving (seen at left). The red color and Play-Doh-like texture of the beams comes from the can of Ralph Lauren latex house paint, from which the piece gets its name, Ralph Lauren. In fact, the can itself hangs from a rung of the sculpture, trapped inside of its frame. By creating an analogy between modernism and fashion cum home décor Mr. Bailey troubles the object’s conventionality somewhat. What is leftover after this comparison is unclear, or merely self-evident.
This general interaction with consumer culture pervades the rest of the show as well. Abstraction with Artifact is an elaborate stand for an upside down Diet Coke can, made from similar wooden beams, this time arranged in more of a pyramid shape. More subtle possibly is a larger work called East Meets West / Worked Out. Its sleek black aluminum surface very distinctly resembles again department store clothing racks. This time a gray felt blanket folds over one black armature. The shiny and industrial look nods back to Minimalism at the same time as the felt acts as a possible reference to Joseph Beuys, though this last connection is highly speculative. The slightly treacherous configuration of the sculpture, with one particularly low hanging bar, does make East Meets West / Worked Out into a more complex amalgam of associations, Minimalism as limbo-pole.
The last sculpture in the show is the most inscrutable. Titled Juncture (1982-present) the polygonal armature forms a cockpit-like shape (seen at right). Slathered with clay and covered in white spray paint, the form has several handles built into the sides. The lone human component save the consumer products--the handles at least offer the promise of interaction. The texture of most of Mr. Bailey’s surfaces create this tactile sensation even if it’s only attributed as a gesture to the artist. The year mentioned in Juncture (1982-present) is Mr. Bailey’s birth year and that lends another layer of association to an abstract sculpture that already reads as a bare bones, womb-like cockpit. Overall Mr. Bailey’s sculptures have taken on a new tactic, one that is certainly more complex because of the breadth of its scope and the abstraction of its components.