ARTIST AND PHOTOGRAPHER Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) died today. He was 72. With a practice spanning painting and photography and landscapes and figuration, he was most recognized for his life-size realist portraits painted in the 1970s of subjects whose cool poses and style of dress conveyed a certain attitude and hipness. Jack Shainman Gallery announced his death. The gallery has represented Hendricks since 2005 and said “with great sadness” that he had passed away this morning.
Susan Hendricks, his wife, told the New York Times that the cause was a cerebral hemorrhage (updated 4/23/17).
“He was a situational painter, documenting the world around him in vivid and highly detailed paintings that capture the distinctive personalities of his subjects. He was a true artist’s artist, always dedicated to his singular vision; he was a figurative painter when it was trendy and especially when it wasn’t,” said Jack Shainman Gallery.
“Barkley’s groundbreaking oeuvre represents everyday people, shining a light on subjects who weren’t typically depicted in life-sized oil paintings. His work paved the way for a new generation of figurative painters, and his absence in the art world will surely be felt.”
“Barkley’s groundbreaking oeuvre represents everyday people, shining a light on subjects who weren’t typically depicted in life-sized oil paintings. His work paved the way for a new generation of figurative painters, and his absence in the art world will surely be felt.” — Jack Shainman Gallery
Last spring a solo exhibition of new paintings by Hendricks was presented at Jack Shainman (March 17-April 23, 2016). Described by the gallery as “his most political to date,” the paintings responded to current events, referencing police shootings, America’s racial divide, and Fox News. One painting titled “Crosshairs Study,” was a composition of four small canvases depicting a black man wearing a hoodie sweatshirt. The powerful image showed crosshairs superimposed on his face with his hands raised in the air, juxtaposed with the words “I no can breathe.”
Paintings by Hendricks appeared on the cover of the April 2009 issue of Artforum magazine; the 2014 book “The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V: The Twentieth Century, Part 2: The Rise of Black Artists” (“New Orleans Niggah,” 1973); the catalog for Swann Auction Galleries April 2, 2015, sale of African-American fine art (“Steve,” 1976); and the November 2016 edition of Nka: Journal of African Contemporary Art (“Photo Bloke,” 2016).
Jack Shainman Gallery said it would continue to represent the artist’s estate.
This painting was featured in “Witness: Art and Civi Rights in the Sixties” the organized by the Brooklyn Museum in 2014. BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Lawdy Mama,” 1969 (oil and gold leaf on canvas). | © Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
THROUGHOUT HIS CAREER, Hendricks participated in many solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries. He had his first solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1980 and his second in 2008, when “Barley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool” traveled to the Harlem institution. Organized by Trevor Schoonmaker for the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the landmark survey brought renewed attention to the artist’s work, particularly his portraits.
The exhibition grew out of a friendship between Hendricks and Schoonmaker, now chief curator at the Nasher Museum. Years before, Schoonmaker sought out Hendricks to participate in a group show called “The Magic City” (2000) when he was working at Brent Sikkema Gallery in Chelsea. The artist and curator connected through their shared interests in art and music.
Schoonmaker contributed a quote to the Jack Shainman announcement. He said: “Over the past 17 years Barkley and I have worked closely together on numerous exhibitions, talks and projects, but it is his deep friendship that I will miss the most. To be blunt, he changed the course of my life. With so many artists and writers now responding to his paintings and photography, Barkley stands out as an artist well ahead of his time.”
He continued: “Though his work has defied easy categorization and his rugged individualism kept him outside of the spotlight for too many years, his unrelenting dedication to his pioneering vision has deeply inspired younger generations. Look at the highly accomplished works of Rashid Johnson, Fahamu Pecou, Robert A. Pruitt, Amy Sherald, Jeff Sonhouse, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, just to name a handful. Today, Barkley’s extensive body of work is as vital and vibrant as ever, and the full impact of his art and teaching is only beginning to unfold.”
“With so many artists and writers now responding to his paintings and photography, Barkley stands out as an artist well ahead of his time.”
— Trevor Schoonmaker
LOT 80: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, (1945-2017), “Sergio,” oil and acrylic on canvas, 1972. Estimate $80,000 to $120,000. Sold $106,250 (including fees). | Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries, June 10, 2014
BORN IN PHILADELPHIA, Hendricks lived and worked in New London, Conn. He earned a four-certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1967), and a BFA and MFA from Yale University. During his time at Yale (1970-72) and in the years following he painted his friends, associates and people who caught his eye and piqued his interest. He taught at Connecticut College from 1972-2010 and spent winters in Jamaica, a change of scenery that inspired his photography and generated new portrait subjects. Susan, his wife of 34 years, was the subject of some of his paintings, too.
In the catalog for “Birth of the Cool,” Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem interviewed Hendricks about his practice. Early in the conversation she asked him about the genesis for his portraits.
THELMA GOLDEN: How did you come to portraiture?
BARKLEY HENDRICKS: The influence of looking at people, and that was a history that was a strong one when I went to school, but I was drawing people before I went to any of the established institutions.
THELMA GOLDEN: And most, perhaps all, of your portraits are actually of real people you know. How do you choose your subjects?
BARKLEY HENDRICKS: There is sometimes a desire by virtue of fashion and personality. I think they play a large role in the selection of subject matter.
He also made self-portraits, sometimes in the nude. In “Birth of the Cool,” Hendricks wrote about self-portraiture. He said he had once heard that one’s self is a convenient subject “since you are always around” and tried to characterize how he viewed the pursuit. “I was not fascinated with myself as much as Rembrandt or depressed to the extent of Van Gogh. However, at times, I could not resist myself as a subject,” he said.
“I was not fascinated with myself as much as Rembrandt or depressed to the extent of Van Gogh. However, at times, I could not resist myself as a subject.” — Barkley L. Hendricks
Jack Shainman Gallery distributed its announcement about the artist’s passing with the self portrait titled “Slick,” shown at the top of this page. In 1977, Hendricks depicted himself wearing white suit with a colorful, geometric patterned kufi cap. He explained the title in “Birth of the Cool.” He said:
“My sister said to me one day, ‘You think you’re slick, just wait, one day a woman is going to straighten you out.’ Ah, a great title for a painting, which is now a part of the Chrysler Museum’s collection.” CT
FORTHCOMING EXHIBITIONS: Organized by Trevor Schoonmaker at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, “Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art” is traveling to Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., where it opens at the end of the month (April 30-Oct. 14, 2017). “Down Home Taste,” a 1971 portrait by Hendricks is featured in “Southern Accent.” This summer, “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” is on view at the Tate Modern in London (July 12—October 22, 2017).
TOP IMAGE: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, “Slick (Self-Portrait),” 1977 (oil, acrylic, and magna on linen canvas). | © Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
The catalog for “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool” is an amazing documentation of the exhibition and the artist’s practice. It features essay contributions from Trevor Schoonmaker, who organized the exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Art historian Richard Powell of Duke University; and Franklin Sirmans, now director of Perez Art Museum Miami; and an interview with Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. The volume also contains informative acknowledgements by Hendricks and a chronology that includes personal and pithy comments from the artist about his milestones and experiences over the years.
This painting is featured in the exhibition “Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art,” which opens at Speed Art Museum at the end of April. BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Down Home Taste,” 1971 (oil and acrylic on linen). | Courtesy Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Ky.
This white-on-white portrait was featured on the April 2009 cover of Artforum magazine and covered the catalog of Swann Auction Galleries April 2, 2015 sale of African-American fine art and set an artist record. Lot 125: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Steve,” 1976 (oil, acrylic and Magna on linen canvas). Estimate: $120,000 – $180,000. Sold for $365,000 (including fees). RECORD, TIE
This painting was featured in the “Birth of the Cool” exhibition. It appeared in a Swann Auction Galleries African-American Fine Art sale on Dec. 15, 2015. BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Tuff Tony,” 1978 (oil and acrylic on linen canvas,). | Estimate $120,000-$!80,000. Sold for $365,000 (including fees) RECORD, TIE