William Bailey & Donald Judd

William Bailey, Turning, 2003, oil on linen, 70 x 55 inches (courtesy of Betty C
William Bailey, Turning, 2003, oil on linen, 70 x 55 inches (courtesy of Betty Cuningham Gallery)

Martin Mugar considers the paintings of William Bailey.

Mugar writes that Bailey's work is "realist but does not partake of the history of realism from Caravaggio on since it is not grounded in an exploration of the perceptual base of most realism. It therefore does not have the sort of optical impact of something freshly seen as in Lennart Anderson’s or Al Leslie’s work. It partakes of the figuration of the early Renaissance that is typified by Perugino, which was still imbued with notions of metaphysics and correspondences between the earthly and the higher realms. Ideality dictated reality. There is a will to make the objects and the figures of his paintings real but it is achieved through a meticulous working of the surface not through any analysis of how things are seen through their optical structure. Like so much avant-garde American art of the last fifty years they jump out of the subject/object dichotomy and move into a neutral world of pragmatically made things following simple rules. There is neither a trope toward endless reduction in a search for underpinnings nor a move into the optical ambiguity of figure/ground that [Al] Held explores in his 'Big N'. It is as though the object is already reduced in the way that cubes in a Judd installation are, not subject to further questioning as to what stands under them. Both midwesterners they share a workmanlike practicality, which posits pragmatically things as made and space as just the opportunity of placement."