January 26, 2008

Barkley L. Hendricks retrospective at the Nasher Museum

"Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool," curated by Trevor Schoonmaker. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. February 7-July 13. The exhibition will travel to the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Santa Monica Museum, Los Angeles, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.

Born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Hendricks's work resides at the intersection of American realism and post-modernism, a space somewhere between portraitists Chuck Close and Alex Katz and pioneering black conceptualists David Hammons and Adrian Piper. He is best known for his stunning, life-sized portraits of people of color from the urban northeast. This is his first career retrospective.

In the NY Times, Benjamin Genocchio describes his visit to Hendricks's New London, CT, studio. "Dressed in black jeans and a buttoned vest on a brisk December day, the artist pottered about his studio, which occupies just about every room of a two-story house in this quiet blue-collar town. One of this state’s most gifted but least-known artists, Mr. Hendricks, who also plays trumpet and saxophone in a local band, has been photographing women’s shoes lately. 'I can’t help it,' he said, almost apologetically. 'Pairs of shoes appeared in one of my paintings in 1975, and it just opened the door to something. Now I photograph them, include them in my paintings and have even begun to collect them through donations and purchases from yard sales and thrift stores.'

"Funky and hip are terms often used to describe Mr. Hendricks’s painting style, which mixes pop art, photorealism and black nationalism. He mostly paints full-figure portraits of people, often of color, from the Northeast. At least this is the sort of artwork he is known for. He pays particular attention to a subject’s attitude and style. “How people dress is how they want to be seen by the world,” he said. Shoes are a part of that. Critics and curators have come to regard Mr. Hendricks’s portraits as some of the most distinctive in recent art. 'He has always done his own thing and avoided easy categorization,' said Trevor Schoonmaker, curator of contemporary art at the Nasher and organizer of the exhibition." Read more.

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