“The Sugar Shack” (1976) by Ernie Barnes

 

LOS ANGELES—A master storyteller, Ernie Barnes (1938-2009) painted from experience. He captured the brawn of football and the quotidian of life in the segregated South.

His representational images depict what he saw growing up in Durham, N.C., where black people gathered for communion and competition on porches and basketball courts, in pool halls and churches. They also document his years as an athlete on college and pro teams, and experiences as a full-time artist living in Los Angeles, where he continued to connect with people in the sports world and added figures from Hollywood, the music industry, and elected officials, to his nexus.

Grounded in narratives, both personal and universal, his paintings are distinguished by a lively sense of action and motion and convey real joy and dignity.

While Barnes centered the African American community in his work, his subjects were markedly diverse in terms of race. His sports images portray an array of athletes. When he moved to a primarily Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles, his new surroundings were reflected in some of his paintings.

Grounded in narratives, both personal and universal, his paintings are distinguished by a lively sense of action and motion and convey real joy and dignity. While Ernie Barnes centered the African American community in his work, his subjects were markedly diverse in terms of race.

An inveterate sketcher, Barnes worked hard at mastering his portrayal of the human body and its complex form. He captured his subjects in a neo-mannerist style. His elongated figures, both lithe and muscular, exude energy and movement. This signature approach is exemplified in “The Sugar Shack,” his most celebrated and iconic painting.

Barnes is the rare artist whose most popular work is recognized from television. “The Sugar Shack” (1976) was regularly featured on Norman Lear’s 1970s sitcom “Good Times.”

The memorable painting depicts a fascinating scene, evoking a rural juke joint with its exposed rafters and densely populated dance floor. Unbridled, men and women move and contort their bodies in response to the live music and each other. The rhythm, energy, and heat is palpable. That night looks like a good time.

The inspiration for the painting was a dance at the Durham Armory, a local space where the likes of Chubby Checker, Bo Diddley, and even Duke Ellington performed. Barnes made the painting based on a childhood memory. In 1952, the artist snuck into the Armory. He was 13 years old at the time. Recalling the scene, Barnes has said, “It was the first time my innocence met with the sins of dance.” More than two decades later, he translated what he saw that night onto canvas.

“The Sugar Shack” is showcased in “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective,” which is on view at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles through this weekend. Curated by Bridget R. Cooks, associate professor of African American studies and art history at the University of California at Irvine, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity see a broad selection of works by Barnes.

The retrospective features art and objects exploring his life and work. More than 50 works made between 1962 and 2007 are on view—paintings of athletes, a drum major, community gatherings, and radiant women. The retrospective follows “The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes,” which was recently on view at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh for nearly a year (June 29, 2018-May 27, 2019). The two exhibitions are the first to survey the work of Barnes since his death, a decade ago in 2009.

 


ERNIE BARNES, Detail of “Stored Dreams,” 1962-94 90 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of Judy and Larry Howard, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

THE EXHIBITION at CAAM begins with a painting the artist took three decades to finish. “Stored Dreams” (1962-1994) encapsulates his two careers.

It’s a rare Barnes painting that doesn’t include a figure. The still life depicts a wood shelf piled with his No. 61 football helmet and cleats, an art history book, a gold trophy cup holding a couple of paint brushes, and correspondence cherished enough to be tacked up in his locker. The envelope is addressed to Barnes via the San Diego Charges and the sender is “Ms. Bernie Gradney,” who many years later became the artist’s third wife. (When Barnes was playing for the Chargers from 1960-62, he was married to his first wife.)

There are also personal objects and ephemera on display. The artist’s paintbrushes, palette, and football helmet are showcased. Splotched with paint, the wooden chair Barnes used in his studio, a fixture in his workspace dating back to the 1970s, is also displayed.

The retrospective is presented in one large gallery with two freestanding walls in the middle. A pair of vitrines on one side of the room display Ebony magazines from 1973 and 1998 with coverage of Barnes, a sketch for the movie “Car Wash,” dated 1975, and a circa 1974-75 photography proof sheet with images of the artist with “Good Times” actor Jimmy “JJ” Walker, among other documentary materials. (In addition to “The Sugar Shack” being featured on “Good Times,” Barnes created the works JJ “painted” on the show.)

As the exhibition unfolds, key themes emerge—the artist’s love of sports and interest in music, the influence of his Southern upbringing, and the powerful manner in which he depicts a panoply of women.

As the exhibition unfolds, key themes emerge—the artist’s love of sports and interest in music, the influence of his Southern upbringing, and the powerful manner in which he depicts a panoply of women.


ERNIE BARNES, “Three Red Lineman,” (acrylic on canvas). | Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

FOOTBALL IS THE FOCUS of many Barnes paintings, but his interest in sports extended far beyond the gridiron. He captured boxing, ice hockey, polo, tennis, and gymnastics. One side of the gallery is devoted to these works.

His paintings of athletes, from bulky boxers to slim tennis players, highlight his talent for exploring the capabilities of the body—its strengths, speed, flexibility, and fatigue.

“Being an athlete helped me to formulate an analysis of movement. Movement is what I wanted to capture on canvas more than anything else. I can’t stand a static canvas,” Barnes told Dave Price in an interview for the series “Here’s The Story” on TV Land.

“Title IX” (1999) depicts three female soccer players intertwined and suspended off the ground, their legs in the air above their heads as they struggle to claim a loose ball. Rhythmic gymnastics is the subject of another work, one of five paintings Barnes created when he served as the official sports artist for the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles.

Barnes captured basketball scenes, too—pick-up games in his hometown on outdoor courts with peach baskets as hoops and in his adopted hometown in a crowded NBA arena where celebrities lined the court.

Writing about the exhibition for the Hollywood Reporter, Kareem Abdul-Jabar described Barnes’s paintings as “magnificent and masterful” and said they gave him a “surge of joy and communal dignity.”

The former Los Angeles Laker is a fan and a subject. “Fast Break” was commissioned by the Lakers in 1987. The Lakers won their 10th NBA title that year over the Boston Celtics, the defending champions. In the painting, Barnes has Abdul-jabar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, and Kurt Rambis—the starting five—running down the court. All the players are mid-stride, feet in mid-air, including the Celtics. The ball is airborne and the arena is packed.

In the article, Abdul-Jabar writes about the individual and group pride that undergirds Barnes’s work.

“The four of us who are black and in the foreground seem to be communicating telepathically, as if we understood what this game—what all games—meant to us individually and to other African Americans. That we were playing for all of us,” Abdul-Jabar writes.

“This same sense of individual elation at pushing the limits of the body, while at the same time pushing how the world sees what we are capable of, is a hallmark of most of his sports paintings, many of which are in this exhibit.”

“This same sense of individual elation at pushing the limits of the body, while at the same time pushing how the world sees what we are capable of, is a hallmark of most of his sports paintings, many of which are in this exhibit.” — Kareem Abdul-Jabar


ERNIE BARNES, Detail of “Fast Break,” 1987 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of The Los Angeles Lakers Inc., © Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 


ERNIE BARNES, “Miss America,” 1970 (oil on canvas, 49 in. x 37 inches). | Collection of California African American Museum, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust

 

POWERFUL IMAGES of women stand out in the retrospective. In “Room Full A’Sistahs” (1994), Barnes features nine women in a stylish modern living room. Gathered for tea, they are having a grand time, laughing uproariously with their arms stretched high into the air. The artist’s depiction of the joyful moment demonstrates a real reverence for women, their beauty, diverse body types, and interiority. This attention and interest in their lives and experiences can be seen in many other paintings in the show.

Exploring the physical strength of women beyond the context of sports, “My Miss America” (1970) is a powerful and moving depiction. This woman has a formidable presence. She’s regal and muscular. If she has to carry the load, she can do so, literally and metaphorically.

“My Miss America” is in CAAM’s collection. Barnes composed his subject like a pyramid—broad at the base, tapered at the peak. The folds of her dress give her a monumental, sculptural quality—a sense of permanence. Holding her shopping bags wide at her sides, her figure narrows above her rounded hips, and continues to slim past her waste and shoulders. Her head is the pinnacle. She holds her chin up, with her eyes closed basking in the golden glow that surrounds her.

Across his oeuvre, Barnes paints his subjects with their eyes closed, whether they are grooving at the sugar shack, suspended in mid-air trying to connect with a loose soccer ball, or carrying a pair of shopping bags.

“I tend to paint everyone, most everyone, with their eyes closed because I feel that we are blind to one another’s humanity so if we could see the gifts strengths and potentials within every human being then our eyes would be open,” Barnes said in a 1990 CNN interview.

“I tend to paint everyone, most everyone, with their eyes closed because I feel that we are blind to one another’s humanity so if we could see the gifts strengths and potentials within every human being, then our eyes would be open.” — Ernie Barnes

Broaching the issue of race, “Window Wishing” (1993) is subtle. Three women stand side-by-side before a store window looking up at a trio of mannequins outfitted in fashionable designer ensembles. Two of the women are white. They wear dresses and hats. The third woman is black and she has on a maid’s uniform. One can imagine a few narratives explaining the scene.

Confronting racism head on, “Study for Walk in Faith” (2000) is a contemporary counterpart to “Miss America.” Barnes revisited the same female figure 30 years later. Here she is less muscular, but no less regal. Whereas the woman in “Miss America” steels herself against undisclosed forces, in the more recent painting, the subject holds her haloed head high and forges ahead with an obvious onslaught surrounding her.

At first glance, with its bright colors and grid composition, “Study for Walk of Faith,” strikes observers as an artful, representational image. More acutely, it is one of triumph and unflappability. Upon closer examination, one sees the subject is striding toward the viewer against a backdrop of niceties (words and symbols such as teacher, apple, sista, wife, hope, mama, African American) outweighed by a slew of woman-hating and racist slurs (witch, jigaboo, slave, ho, ape, coon, bitch, darkie).

 


Installation view of “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective,” California African American Museum, 2019. Shown, From left, “Room Full A’Sistahs” (1994), “Study for Walk in Faith” (2000), and “Screen Door” 2007 (unfinished, in background). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 


From left, Ernie Barnes, Self portrait, 1968. | © Ernie Barnes Family Trust; and Ernie Barnes, Sports Artist of the 1984 Olympic Games – March 6, 1984 at LA Coliseum. | Photo by Chan Bush, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust

 

BORN IN DURHAM, N.C., Barnes grew up in a community called “The Bottom” with his parents and younger brother. (He also had an older half brother.) The artist was a shy child who occupied himself with drawing. In “From Pads to Palette,” his illustrated biography published in 1995, Barnes said he had a better quality of life than other “Negro” children in his neighborhood. Anything he asked for he got. Family meals were plentiful. His father was a shipping clerk at a tobacco company and his mother did domestic work, supervising the household of a wealthy lawyer.

“I liked him because on the occasions when I accompanied my mother to work, he would call me into his study and allow me to look through his art books. He would tell me about the various schools of art, his favorite painters, the museums he visited and other things my mind couldn’t quite comprehend at age seven. But he seemed to enjoy educating me as much as I enjoyed his books,” Barnes wrote.

“I found it difficult to understand why he, as a member of the school board, voted against school desegregation when the bill first come to the table. He told my mother he didn’t think “’the Whites were ready.’”

Barnes attended segregated schools and, in high school, was captain of the football team and a state champion in shot put. He earned a full athletic scholarship to what is now North Carolina Central University (NCCU), an HBCU, where sculptor Ed Wilson was his art instructor and chairman of the art department.

At NCCU, Wilson advised Barnes to draw what he knew. In “Pads to Palette,” Barnes recalled Wilson’s advice: “If you are going to be an artist, you’ve got to work from your experiences. When you’re on the field check out what’s going on around you in that muggy conflict. Feel the solidity of those bumps, pay attention to what you’re going through, and then tell me about it.”

On another occasion, when Barnes was bereft of ideas and couldn’t figure out what to paint, Wilson took him out of class and drove him to his neighborhood.

“Art is about life and how you feel about it,” Wilson told him. “It’s not something that’s separate and apart from life. You serve as being a kind of a reporter of your discoveries and opinions about life. Don’t ever tell me that you don’t know what to paint. That’s like telling me you have no opinion, that you don’t think or feel about anything.”

Barnes left NCCU before graduating. In 1960, he was selected in the tenth round of the NFL draft. An offensive lineman, he played five seasons of professional football with the New York Titans, San Diego Chargers, and Denver Broncos, before concentrating on his practice in Los Angeles. Barnes painted full-time from the mid-1960s to 2008.

The paintings on view in the retrospective show Barnes took his instructor’s suggestions to heart. Throughout his career, he painted what he saw, what he experienced, and what he cared about.

Luz Rodriguez, a longtime assistant to Barnes who serves as trustee of his estate, said he fell ill in 2008, during the holidays. A few months later, he died of myeloid leukemia. He was 70.

“Being an athlete helped me to formulate an analysis of movement. Movement is what I wanted to capture on canvas more than anything else. I can’t stand a static canvas.” — Ernie Barnes


From left (2), ERNIE BARNES, “Hoop Dreams,” 1978 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of Paul and Brenda Hudson; and ERNIE BARNES, “Window Wishing,” 1993 (acrylic on canvas). | Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photos by Victoria L. Valentine

 


ERNIE BARNES, “Anniversary,” 1980 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of Melissa Manchester, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

A HANDFUL OF PAINTINGS in the exhibition are housed in weathered wood frames. The treatment is a tribute to the artist’s father. In 1966, Barnes was preparing for his first gallery show at Grand Central Galleries in New York City. He was finishing the last painting when he got a devastating call from his mother. His father was in the hospital after having a stroke. His speech was impaired and his left side was paralyzed.

Barnes drove across the country, from California to North Carolina, to see his father. In “Pads to Palette,” he said he drove “straight through,” arriving in two days. The artist visited his father daily, splitting his time each day between the hospital and framing his work in the family’s backyard. He had an epiphany when saw the aging fence his father once kept pristine.

“One day, I placed a painting against the fence and stood away and had a look. I was startled at the marriage between the old wood fence and the painting,” Barnes wrote. “It was perfect. A tribute to Daddy. I framed all of the paintings with that old wood fence. Daddy’s fence would hug my paintings in a prestigious New York gallery. That would have made him smile.” Barnes never told his father about the meaningful framing. He died before he got a chance to do so.

I framed all of the paintings with that old wood fence. Daddy’s fence would hug my paintings in a prestigious New York gallery. That would have made him smile.” — Ernie Barnes

“From Pads to Palette” concludes with his first show. (Football was the subject of all with works in the exhibition.) Paintings framed in wood from the fence in Durham, were featured in that inaugural gallery exhibition in New York City. Later, Barnes framed additional paintings such as “Anniversary” (1980) and “Double Dutch” (1989), in a similar fashion, but not with wood sourced from his father’s fence. Rodriguez said, “in subsequent years, he would use weathered wood he found or from his own yard to frame certain paintings.”

 


ERNIE BARNES, “Double Dutch,” 1989 (acrylic on canvas). | Private Collection, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 


Installation view of “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective,” California African American Museum, 2019. Shown, From left, “Screen Door” (2007), an unfinished work in progress, “Late Night DJ” (1980), and “Double Dutch” (1989). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

THE NEWEST PAINTING in the retrospective reinvents the use of wood planks for framing. “Screen Door” is a work in progress from 2007. It’s a unique work that Barnes envisioned as a scene viewed through an open door. The large vertical painting depicts a man and women embracing. Her back is to the viewer. Green painted and weathered wood frames the image in the manner of a wooden screen door, complete with handle.

The painting is unfinished. Rodriguez told me by email that Barnes worked on many paintings simultaneously. To complete this one, he intended to use an extremely thin paintbrush to overlay the image with a mesh screen.

Nearby, “The Sugar Shack” hangs in a row of paintings about halfway down one side of the gallery. A modest rope and stanchion-style set up in front of the painting distinguishes it from the many other works in the exhibition. The symbolic barrier does little to guard the painting but does emphasize its prized status. The famous painting is one of many scenes inspired by Barnes’s hometown.

“The Sugar Shack” became familiar to television viewers and music lovers. A version of the artwork illustrates the cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album “I Want You.” Two other paintings in the exhibition appear on album covers, too.

In “Late Night DJ” (1980), Barnes depicts a woman in red—dress, cap and lipstick—spinning records. With a fur-collar coat resting on her shoulders, she has a cocktail at the ready. Curtis Mayfield commissioned Barnes to create the image for the cover of his album “Something to Believe In.”

Barnes explained how “Late Night DJ” came about in an interview with a Japanese outlet, called Soul Museum. He said: “The story behind the painting pertains to one very rainy night in Atlanta, Georgia. A friend picked me up from the airport. I realized that many plans and romantic evenings were probably broken because of the terrible weather. On the radio was a male DJ. His voice didn’t match the climate of that evening. I felt it should have been a woman so that’s what I presented. Who could better soothe the listeners than a woman?”

In a 1982 painting, a young man stands alone in a darkened room facing a vintage radio with his arms, exaggerated in length, held high in the air in the manner of a conductor. Called “The Maestro,” the image appears on the cover of The Crusaders 1984 album “Ghetto Blaster.”

Similar to Los Angeles artist Charles White before him, who illustrated album covers from the 1950 to 1970s, most of them jazz, Barnes collaborated with several other musical artists, creating art for seven albums between 1976 and 2000.

When times were lean, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1992, “African American artists, such as Charles White, provided him with inspiration to persevere.” (Another, Samella Lewis, was among those who bought paintings from Barnes. She once owned another version of “The Maestro,” circa 1978, not included in the CAAM show.)

 


ERNIE BARNES, “Late Night DJ,” (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of Ted Lange, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

A SUCCESSFUL ARTIST in his lifetime, Barnes carved out a unique career path in which he eventually thrived commercially. Throughout the years, the African American community embraced him and African American collectors, celebrities, musical artists, and sports figures purchased his work. He counted among his collectors Jack Palance, Harry Belafonte, Ethel Kennedy, Howard Cossell, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Sylvester Stallone, and dozens of others among the who’s who of earlier eras.

He collaborated with the Olympics, received commissions from the NBA, NFL, record labels, universities, and corporations, and sustained his practice with an entrepreneurial spirit.

In 1971, Barnes organized a touring exhibition of 35 paintings that he said “not only defined how and in what ways black was beautiful, but it gave a sense of pride a sense of community.” From 1972 to 1979, “The Beauty of the Ghetto” traveled to major U.S. cities, where his celebrity supporters and local elected officials hosted the shows and new collectors from across the country were introduced to his work.

Barnes received awards and accolades from the sports world, but meaningful recognition and critical acknowledgment from the art world eluded him. Early in his career, exposure on “Good Times” broadened his audience but failed to draw the attention of art critics or art historians.

Ernie Barnes received awards and accolades from the sports world, but meaningful recognition and critical acknowledgment from the art world has eluded him.

“He’s not a part of art history,” Cooks told the Guardian newspaper. “Barnes is not someone in any art history book that I own or have seen, but he has influenced thousands of people through the popular vehicles he accessed for his work.”

THAT POPULAR SUPPORT for Barnes from the sports world and the entertainment industry and appeal across generations is evident throughout the gallery. A scan of the exhibition labels reveals an interesting group of individual and institutional collectors.

“Fast Break” is in the collection of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Los Angeles Athletic Club owns “The Maestro.” Fast-rising Los Angeles artist Lauren Halsey was recently in residence at the downtown club. The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection owns “Final Study for the Drum Major” (2004). The Kinsey collection was established by Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, prominent African American collectors based in Los Angeles.

A former NFL player and coach, Hardy Nickerson contributed paintings to the exhibition and participated in the museum’s related programming, speaking on panel about the Barnes show. Nickerson met Barnes in 1993 and commissioned the artist to make a painting that expressed his aspirations to play professional football.

 


ERNIE BARNES, Detail of Friendly Friendship Baptist Church (acrylic on canvas). | The Hardy Nickerson Family Collection, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

“Friendly Friendship Baptist Church” (1994) is a lively scene. The preacher, choir and band are clearly feeling the spirit. Nearly everyone in the pews is on their feet, except Nickerson and his cousin who remain seated. In the painting, Nickerson wears a No. 50 jersey and the two young boys have their noses buried in a football magazine.

“Late Night DJ” is from the collection of Ted Lange, the actor who played Isaac, the bartender on the television show “The Love Boat.” Other paintings are on loan from singers Melissa Manchester and Ray Parker Jr.

A few paintings away, works are owned by a new generation. “Dance Studio” (2002) is from the collection of Rebecca and Troy Carter, the music manager, tech entrepreneur, and consultant to Prince’s estate. “Ali” depicts the legendary boxing champion in the ring, gloves at the ready with his opponent looking defeated and on the verge of collapse. The boxing scene belongs to Derek Dudley, who runs Freedom Road Productions with Common and has a producer credit on Showtime’s “The Chi.”

Another work, “Study for Spoken Word” (2006), is a compelling departure in subject and style for Barnes. Here, the artist depicts a woman standing before a lectern, one hand on her hip, the other holding an open book aloft. She appears to be conducting a dramatic reading. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves fill the entire background. Toward the bottom of the painting the names of six historic African American authors are listed, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Langston Hughes.

The large, sepia-tone drawing is owned by The Dean Collection (Alicia Keys and Kasseem Dean, aka Swizz Beatz). The music industry couple has been increasingly active in the art world, recently showing their expansive collection of Gordon Parks photographs at Harvard University’s Ethelbert Cooper Gallery at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Art, and also announcing plans to establish a music and arts center in upstate New York.

“Speaking with his collectors, I have uncovered many personal stories about Barnes’ generosity of spirit. He touched many people through the emotional expression in his art, love of sports, the female form, and life in Los Angeles,” Cooks told me via email.

“His collectors were his friends and his admirers. Many of them are songwriters and musicians. I think they felt a kinship with Barnes’ skill as a storyteller through his art.” CT

 

Curated by Bridget R. Cooks with Vida L Brown, visual arts curator and program manager at CAAM, “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective” is on view at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles, May 8-Sept. 8, 2019

 

TOP IMAGE: ERNIE BARNES, “The Sugar Shack,” 1976 (acrylic on canvas, 36 in. x 48 inches). | Collection of Jim and Jeannine Epstein, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust

 

FIND MORE about Ernie Barnes on his website

WATCH a video about the life and work of Ernie Barnes from the NC Museum of History (It begins with a general museum introduction.)

 

BOOKSHELF
“Pads to Palette,” is an autobiographical volume by Ernie Barnes. Alongside illustrations of his work, the artist recounts his childhood in Durham, N.C., football experiences including the segregated AFL and early NFL years, and the start of his art career with his first gallery exhibition. Published in 2007, “A Tribute to Artist and NFL Alumni Ernie Barnes: His Art & Inspiration” commemorates a New York City exhibition hosted by Time Warner and the National Football League. A children’s book, “Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery,” was published last year. Also, Shades of Color recently released a 2020 wall calendar featuring “the iconic art” of Barnes, published in collaboration with the artist’s estate.

 


ERNIE BARNES, “Pool Hall,” circa 1970 (oil on canvas, 24 in. x 36 inches). | Collection of California African American Museum, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust

 


ERNIE BARNES, “Study for Spoken Word,” 2006 (acrylic on canvas). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 


Installation view of “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective,” California African American Museum, 2019. Shown, From left, “Dead Heat” 2004, “Head Shot” (1999), “Title IX” (1999). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 


ERNIE BARNES, “The Rhythmic Gymnast,” 1984 (acrylic on canvas, 24 in. x 36 inches). | © Ernie Barnes Family Trust

 


From left (2), ERNIE BARNES, Detail of “In This Corner,” 1999 (acrylic on canvas). | Ernie Barnes Family Trust, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust; and ERNIE BARNES, “The Competitive Spirit,” 2005 (acrylic on canvas). | Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photos by Victoria L. Valentine

 


ERNIE BARNES, “Study for Walk in Faith,” 2000 (acrylic on paper). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 


ERNIE BARNES, Detail of “Room Full A’Sistahs,” 1994 (acrylic on canvas). | The Hardy Nickerson Family Collection, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 


Installation view of “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective,” California African American Museum, 2019. Shown, At left, the wood chair Barnes used in his studio for more than four decades. | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

SUPPORT CULTURE TYPE
Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an editorially independent solo project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for your support.