High Museum of Art
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“EW, SN” by Radcliffe Bailey: August Collection Highlight

Bailey’s glittering black canvas recalls familial and collective histories of migrations across land, water, and cultural space.

By Eva Berlin, Digital Content Specialist, High Museum of Art

Radcliffe Bailey’s work combines a deep historical consciousness with the histories of his own family and community. EW, SN reveals Bailey’s signature layering of evocative and culturally resonant images — here, railroad tracks suggest the Underground Railroad while simultaneously referring to Bailey’s father, who was a railroad engineer.

Radcliffe Bailey (American, born 1968), EW, SN, 2011, acrylic, glitter, and velvet on canvas

The title refers to the Great Migration, which took place between 1910 and 1970, when more than six million African Americans, including Bailey’s own relatives, migrated from east to west and from south to north to pursue economic opportunity in industrial urban centers.

Jacob Lawrence painting of a crowd of migrants heading through doorways marked for Chicago, New York, and St. Louis.
Jacob Lawrence, “During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans.”, 1940–41, casein tempera on hardboard, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

When he was young, Bailey was exposed to the history of the Great Migration through the artwork of Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence’s epic Migration Series, composed of over 60 panels with accompanying captions, depicts the complex situations, motivations, hopes, struggles, and triumphs of millions of Black migrants.

Radcliffe Bailey discusses EW, SN in the film above. This is just one of more than seventeen thousand artworks in our collection. The High’s your place for digital content!

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