The Speed Art Museum has received a major gift of 35 contemporary artworks from the Los Angeles-based scholar, advocate, and collector Gordon W. Bailey. All 21 artists, most African-American artists from the southern United States, featured in this gift are making their debuts in the Speed Art Museum’s permanent collection. A selection of these works will be on view in the exhibition A New World in My View: Gifts from Gordon W. Bailey in the Speed’s contemporary galleries on the second floor of the North building.
Bailey selected a collection of artworks that will enable the Speed to present a more diverse range of contemporary art and further erode the boundaries that have marginalized artists who have been labeled “naïve,” “outsider,” or “self-taught.” The artists whose artwork has been gifted to the Speed include: Leroy Almon, Eddie Arning, Willie Birch, Archie Byron, David Choe, Sam Doyle, Thornton Dial Sr., Roy Ferdinand, Lonnie Holley, Joe Light, Charlie Lucas, Sister Gertrude Morgan, J. B. Murray, O. L. Samuels, Welmon Sharlhorne, Herbert Singleton, Henry Speller, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, James “Son” Thomas, Willie White, and Purvis Young.
“We are deeply fortunate to have found a donor, scholar, and collaborator in Gordon W. Bailey, who is reshaping the way the Speed presents contemporary art,” said Speed Art Museum CEO Ghislain d’Humieres. “This collection will generate conversation and bring many new visitors through our doors.”
“This is a gift carefully crafted with the Speed Art Museum in mind, and reflects Mr. Bailey’s decades-long commitment to fostering these artists and ushering them into the canon of art history,” said Miranda Lash, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Speed. “I am honored and grateful to be working with him in presenting this awe-inspiring work.”
Highlights of the gift include Sam Doyle, Chapel of Ease, c. 1982-84; Willie Birch, Sunday’s Child, 1991; Charlie Lucas, One-Eyed Farmer, 1990s; Lonnie Holley, I Was Raised in the Crate that Fed Me, 1980s; and three Welmon Sharlhorne drawings from the 1990s. Painted on sheet metal, Sam Doyle’s Chapel of Ease captures an eighteen-century church ruin off the coast of South Carolina on St. Helena Island. Originally built by slaves for use by plantation families, after the Civil War, the Chapel of Ease was used by Freedmen and their supporters. Around 1970, Doyle volunteered to serve as caretaker of the historic ruins, and sometimes painted at the site.
Sunday’s Child by New Orleans-based artist Willie Birch is a quintessential example of Birch’s work in papier-mâché, a medium he began employing in the mid-1980s. Birch’s sculpture of a young African-American girl includes a round, glass-covered box affixed to her chest filled with objects, a reference to the materials found in African Nkisi figures. Made from found objects, One-Eyed Farmer by Charlie Lucas captures in semi-abstract form the profile of a farmer and a rural landscape. The sheet metal, bowl, wires, and metal detritus used by Lucas imbue the imagery with dynamic three-dimensional relief. Renowned artist and musician Lonnie Holley created I Was Raised in the Crate that Fed Me, from a found wooden crate, twisted wires and a baby doll. Tangled in its wires, the doll alludes his own challenging upbringing and the universal theme of injustice. Drawn with pen and marker on manila folders, the drawings of Louisiana artist Welmon Sharlhorne bring to life vivid imaginary faces, creatures, buildings and skyscapes.