California African American Museum receives large gift of work focused on self-taught artists from the South

Sam Doyle’s “St. Helena’s Black Merry Go Rond,” house paint on metal, is one of 32 art works collector Gordon W. Bailey has gifted to CAAM.
(Marten Elder / California African American Museum)

The California African American Museum has grown its visitor numbers substantially over the last two years since deputy director and chief curator Naima Keith took over programming. Now the museum’s collection is going through a growth spurt as well.

The museum has received a gift of 32 paintings, sculptures and mixed media works from L.A. collector, scholar and artist advocate Gordon W. Bailey.

Bailey’s collection is focused on self-taught contemporary artists from the South, with a large number of works by African Americans. All of the pieces he gifted to CAAM are by African Americans including Georgia Speller, Hawkins Bolden, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Robert Howell and “Missionary” Mary Proctor.

One painting by Sam Doyle, “St. Helena's Black Merry Go Rond,” the museum said, is particularly significant. The painting on metal, created in the early 1980s, depicts cultural elements of the Gullah people whom the artist observed while living in St. Helena, S.C.

Purvis Young's
Purvis Young's "Dudes Talking," mixed media on wood door, one of 32 artworks that collector Gordon W. Bailey gave to CAAM. Marten Elder / California African American Museum.

Bailey curated the 2013 CAAM exhibition “Soul Stirring: African American Self-taught Artists From the South.” Many of the artists featured in that show, including Doyle, Leroy Almon, Roy Ferdinand, Herbert Singleton and Purvis Young are represented in the artworks he gifted to the museum.

"Gordon Bailey is a visionary collector and an Angeleno,” CAAM Executive Director George O. Davis said in an interview, “so it’s an honor for CAAM to join the list of institutions to which he has donated, including LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art], the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the High Museum. I’m impressed by his commitment and passion to ensure that self-taught African American artists get the acknowledgment they deserve.”

In a statement issued by the museum, Davis called Bailey “a staunch supporter of artists working outside the mainstream.” His gift to CAAM, Davis said, “furthers our mission of preserving and interpreting the art, history, and culture of African Americans.”

Bailey said each visit to the museum strengthens his resolve for works created by marginalized artists to get a fair review. “CAAM's exhibitions are broad ranging and relevant, and the museum's dynamic programming, often featuring prominent speakers, is a huge plus for Los Angeles,” he said. “It is an honor to be able to contribute.”

Robert Howell's
Robert Howell's "Critter," mixed media wood sculpture, is one of 32 artworks that collector Gordon W. Bailey has gifted to CAAM. Chip Pankey / Marten Elder / California African American Museum
Leroy Almon's
Leroy Almon's "Of Two Worlds," carved and painted wood, one of collector Gordon W. Bailey's gifts to CAAM. Marten Elder / California African American Museum

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