Black Rainbows is the result of a several years long conversation between Corinne Bailey Rae and the objects and happenings in the Stoney Island Arts Bank, Chicago.
"I knew when I walked through those doors that my life had changed forever."
Situated at the Great Grand Crossing neighbourhood of Chicago's South Side, Stoney Island Arts Bank is a cathedral to Black Art, a curated collection of Black archives comprising books, sculpture, records, furniture and problematic objects from America's past. As well as being a site for archive, the Arts bank is also a place for convening. Bailey Rae attended The Black Artists Retreat there in 2017 and performed in the space.
"I saw scores for songs written during slavery times, 1000's of Black books in a double height library, a Nick Cave Sound Suit, just hanging on the wall, postcards, glass slides, ceramic objects, African masks, contemporary sculpture, and everything so tactile, wood, glass, marble, stone, ceramic, leather. The objects were talking to me. While I was on my tour bus, driving through America, all I could think about was that space. I had to get back."
Wide ranging in it's themes, Black Rainbows' subjects are drawn from encounters with objects in the Arts Bank. Taking us from the rock hewn churches of Ethiopia, to the journeys of Black Pioneers Westward, from Miss New York Transit 1957, to how the sunset appears from Harriet Jacobs' loophole. Black Rainbows explores Black femininity, Spell Work, Inner Space/Outer Space, time collapse and ancestors, the erasure Black childhood and music as a vessel for transcendence.
"Engaging with these archives and encountering Theaster Gates and his practice has changed how I think about myself as an artist and what the possibilities of my work can be.â€ť Like all historical objects, these refuse to stay quiet, they continue to speak, and their presence is required in present conversation."
"Exploring the Arts Bank has unlocked something in me. I have followed my scholarly interests and allowed them to bleed into and inform my music. This obsessional journey has led me from Chicago to Betye Saar in Milan, Soul of a Nation in New York, The Venice Biennale to see Amanda Williams, Arthur Jaffa in LA, Senga Nengudi in Leeds, Noah Davis at the Underground Museum, Kerry James Marshall, Chicago, and of course, Theaster's own work in exhibitions in Paris, London, Basel and Liverpool. Contemporary Black Art has spoken to me. This music has come through seeing. Seeing has been like hearing, for me. While I was looking, songs/sounds appeared."