cover image William Bailey

William Bailey

John Hollander, Rizzoli, Giuliano Briganti. Rizzoli International Publications, $50 (195pp) ISBN 978-0-8478-1345-2

Bailey's contemporary still-lifes typically show crockery, eggs and utensils stretched out on a table against a wall; but that bald description scarcely conveys the luminous intensity of these paintings. Objects of great diversity huddle, couple, face up to, confront and even upstage one another. These objects, notes poet-critic Hollander, inhabit a sacral space in pictures whose moods range from meditative rapture to autumnal nobility. The Iowa-born artist, now an art professor at Yale, also does paintings of nude women who, schematically posed and bereft of personality, become enigmatic props in a visual theater of the mind. In a perceptive, eloquent essay accompanying the 163 plates, Hollander emphasizes the abstract nature of these nudes despite their echoes of Ingres and Balthus. Briganti, in the introductory essay, interprets Bailey's mute, discreet vocabulary in terms of an ardent desire for order and formal beauty. (Apr.)