T.J. Carlin reports in Time Out that Barkley Hendricks, who for the past thirty years has been a wry, beret-wearing presence in my town’s quiet art community, is long overdue for a retrospective. “I’m not sure if Barack Obama’s election had anything to do with it, but upon entering ‘Birth of the Cool,’ the Studio Museum’s survey of eminent African-American painter Barkley L. Hendricks, I found myself marveling incredulously at the art world’s myopic view of its own recent history, and thinking, not for the first time, that here was a long-overdue show. It’s almost embarrassing that this survey of Hendricks’s work is the first big retrospective for a figurative painter who has clearly influenced—and who in many cases outshines—so many of his peers. Political questions aside, Hendricks needs to be recognized as a pioneer, and ‘Birth of the Cool’ is an important initial step in that direction….
“On its own, Hendricks’s color sensibility is breathtaking and underscores his love of classical painting; his limited-color series—perhaps ironically most appealing in a number of white-on-white works—is only one tactic among many for cleaving content to painting with the most visceral punch. In his quasi-abstract “Dippy’s Delight”(1969), Hendricks carves up a circular canvas with a choppy, primary-colored Mondrian-style grid, and crowns the top with a basketball rim. In every work, he recombines and pays homage to an impressive array of influences in ways that continue to be striking and relevant today. “In an era when the image Hendricks was looking for—an African-American figure with deep historical gravitas—has finally come to the forefront of national and international news (and has been reinforced in the public’s mind with appearances on every television and computer screen), it’s worth appreciating not only Hendricks’s skill as a painter, but also his fruitful investigation into his own artistic and personal identity.” Read more.
Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool,” curated by Trevor Schoonmaker. Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY. Through March 15. Originated at the Nasher Museum of Art, traveling to the Santa Monica Museum, Los Angeles, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.