Frick Madison in NYC features 14 finest large-scale color portraits by the African-American painter Barkley L. Hendricks. The exhibition, celebrating the diverse beauty of African-American subjects, is a testament to Hendricks’ ability to merge traditional techniques with contemporary subjects.
Barkley L. Hendricks (1945–2017), who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Yale, left an indelible mark through his portraits, which capture the essence of city life and its denizens. The Frick Collection, renowned for its portraits by artists like Rembrandt, Bronzino, Van Dyck, among others, held a special place for him as one of his preferred museums.
Curated by Aimee Ng, Frick’s Curator, and Consulting Curator Antwaun Sargent, the exhibition delves into the intricate relationship between European painting and Hendricks’s artistic vision, as well as the evolving significance of the Frick in modern American culture.
“Lawdy Mama” and “Miss T” from 1969 exemplify the use of traditional techniqueS, featuring subjects clad in black against monochromatic backgrounds, creating a striking juxtaposition.
“Woody” (1973) showcases his command of color and form, with vibrant yellow contrasting with brown skin and a radiant background. Hendricks transcends limited palettes, especially in his white-on-white portraits, which reveal the infinite nuances of dark skin tones and pure whiteness.
“Omarr” (1981) and other works in a side room further exemplify Hendricks’s celebration of the rich diversity within the African-American community. His commitment to portraying African-Americans without the weight of oppression and poverty is evident.
“Lagos Ladies (Gbemi, Bisi, Niki, Christy)” (1978) unveils the subtleties of complexion and individuality within a collective setting, emphasizing the beauty of black skin.
The exhibition runs through January 7, 2024.
Featured Image: Barkely L. Hendricks, Woody (1973). Courtesy of the Estate of Barkely L. Hendricks and Jack Shainman Gallery