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Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool

On View: January 30, 2010 - April 18, 2010
February 22, 2018 @ 5:00PM – 6:00PM
Brown Foundation Gallery
Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool @ Brown Foundation Gallery

Best known for his life-sized portraits of ordinary people living mostly in the urban northeast, Barkley L. Hendricksʼs bold portrayal of his subjectʼs attitude and style elevates the common man and woman to celebrity status. Organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, curator of contemporary art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool is the first painting retrospective of the American artist, and includes over 50 works from 1964 to the present. For CAMHʼs presentation, a series of photographic works by the artist from a related exhibition, Walkin’ with Walker: Narrative Photography of Barkley L. Hendricks, will be included. Spanning four decades of work, Walkinʼ with Walker was organized by The African American Museum in Philadelphia and co-curated by Barkley L. Hendricks and Richard J. Watson, curator of exhibitions.

Hendricksʼs stylistic renderings connect the art movements of American realism and post-modernism, occupying a space between contemporary portraitists like Chuck Close and Alex Katz and pioneering black painters such as Romare Bearden and Beauford Delaney. The exhibition is composed primarily of full-figure portraits, as well as lesser-known early works and the artistʼs more recent portal-like paintings of the Jamaican landscape, where he returns annually to do outdoor en plein air painting.

“Barkley Hendricks has always been ahead of his time,” says Schoonmaker. “His work touches upon many of the movements of the ʼ60s and ʼ70s—pop art, photorealism, minimalism, and black nationalism—but he has always done his own thing and avoided easy categorization. His groundbreaking work is as fresh today as it was thirty and forty years ago, and a generation of young artists is deeply indebted to him.”

Included in CAMHʼs presentation is Walkin’ with Walker, an installation of black-and-white and color photographs taken by the artist over the last forty years. Influenced by legendary American photographer Walker Evans, Hendricks has amassed an extensive body of street scenes and candid portraits, some of which have been used as, what he terms, “mechanical sketches,” or as source material for his paintings. The photographic work is presented in conjunction with FotoFest 2010 Biennial, an international biennial of photography and photo-related arts that takes place in Houston, March 12-April 25, 2010.

“Hendricks is a sophisticated practitioner who combines impressive references, forms, and techniques in renderings that seem to cut to the core, to reveal his subjects as vulnerable individuals even as they selfconsciously pose in displays of hipness,” says Janet Koplos (as reviewed in Art in America, November 2008).

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is the final touring venue for Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool after stops at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Santa Monica Museum of Art, CA; and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

About the Artist

Barkley L. Hendricks was born in Philadelphia in 1945. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and earned his bachelorʼs and masterʼs degrees in fine arts from Yale University, New Haven, CT. He is a professor of art at Connecticut College in New London, where he has been teaching since 1972.

Hendricks made his mainstream museum debut at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, in the 1971 show Contemporary Black Artists in America. In 1980, the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, organized his first major solo show. In 1994, his work was part of the Whitneyʼs Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art. A large solo show, The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience, 2001, was organized by the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, CT. And in 2005, Hendricksʼs work was included in Back to Black—Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary at Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.

His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Columbus Museum of Art, OH; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA; Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC.