Bailey has moved from early experiments to the achievements of today, on the impulse of a youthful vocation for drawing, which took him from art school in the Midwest to the Korean War, to Yale, where he befriended De Kooning and Pollock, and to studies with Josef Albers. Bailey loved the past and repeatedly looked at the classics of European painting.
Bailey’s still-lifes (so often with suggestive Italian titles), are distinct domestic objects arranged frontally on top of a table that coincides with the line of the horizon. They stand against a barely modulated background with the studied conventional equilibrium of sculpture on the pediment of a Greek temple or the sanctity of objects set out on an altar.
Bailey picks up again tenaciously and faithfully the threads of a visual concern, of an aspect of the life of forms, that takes place over a long period of time and that runs as a current beneath the surface of contemporary art, emerging sometimes as a desire for order and formal beauty, even as contemporary expressions seem often to revolt against the past. For Bailey this formal aspect manifests itself as an explicit reference to historical sources, mainly in the need to fill the emptiness of space with the fullness of objects and to fill the fullness of space between objects through the severe dialectic of formal relations.