Barkley L. Hendricks was a painter and photographer best known for his realist and post-modern portraits of people of color living in urban areas beginning in the 1960s and 70s and continuing to the present. Trevor Schoonmaker, the organizing curator for Hendricks’ traveling exhibition Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool said, “His bold portrayal of his subject’s attitude and style elevates the common person to celebrity status. Cool, empowering, and sometimes confrontational, Hendricks’ artistic privileging of a culturally complex black body has paved the way for today’s younger generation of artists.”
Janet Koplos wrote in a 2008 Art in America feature of Hendricks, “Almost without fail, Hendricks catches such sensitive indications of character in his portraits, and often with very mixed messages. His 1977 Brilliantly Endowed (Self-Portrait) presents him partly—strategically—undressed (the title, the catalogue notes, both touts and mocks a phrase from a Hilton Kramer review of his work). This is not a classical nude but a man with only the most central of his clothes off, which thus contradicts the conventions of heroic or romanticized figures. Hendricks is willing to violate his own privacy; the “undressed” quality is emphasized by the amount of personal ornament he still wears.”
“Fashion is a situation we all find ourselves in every day, when we wake up and have to put on clothes,” Hendricks said in a Women’s Wear Daily article about his (2013) exhibition Heart Hands Eyes Mind.
Hendricks was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and lived and worked in New London, Connecticut. He earned both his BFA and MFA from Yale University and was the subject of a large-scale traveling exhibition, Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, organized by Trevor Schoonmaker at the Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (2008), which traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2008-2009), Santa Monica Museum of Art, California (2009), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2009-2010) and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas (2010).
His work is included in numerous public collections both within the United States and abroad, such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; The Tate Modern, London, UK; Studio Museum, Harlem, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH; and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Jack Shainman Gallery has represented Hendricks since 2009. His solo exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery include Heart Hands Eyes Mind (2013) and Barkley L. Hendricks (2016).