Performative Portraits

Chantal McStay, The New York Times - The T List, September 9, 2021

An equestrian helmet (“Paul and I”), a puff of feathers (“Body 1”), teased wigs with harsh eyebrows drawn in the hairline (“Ethyl Eichelberger Angels”) — these are just a few of the props and costumes on display in the photographs of Michael Bailey-Gates, which evoke the aesthetics of classical portraiture even as they upend conventions of gender and beauty. “A Glint in the Kindling,” the artist’s first monograph and the inaugural publication from Pinch Publishing, presents a selection of Bailey-Gates’s recent work, along with an eponymous solo exhibition on view at The Ravestijn Gallery in Amsterdam from September 18 through October 16.


Paul and I, 2019 © Michael Bailey-Gates, courtesy The Ravestijn Gallery


The portraits turn on unexpected juxtapositions — sinew and hair poke out from delicate silk garments (“Self Portrait”); a spider sits poised opposite a lolling tongue (“Bobbi’s Face”) — and often have the feeling of film stills. “The people I’m attracted to photographing all have really self-observing and reflective relationships with their bodies,” Bailey-Gates says. “Gesture is just another form of language — they’re saying, ‘Know this about me.’”