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 1970s. 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.”
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hendricks 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, at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (2008), which traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2008–2009); the Santa Monica Museum of Art, California (2009); the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2009–2010); and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas (2010).
Hendricks’s work has been prominently shown in recent significant exhibitions, such as the Prospect.4 Triennial, The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana, November 18, 2017 – February 25, 2018 and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, exhibited at the Tate Modern July 12 – October 22, 2017; the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, February 3 – April 23, 2018; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York, September 7 – February 3, 2019; The Broad, Los Angeles, California, March 23 – September 1, 2019; the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, November 9, 2019 – March 8, 2020; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, April 19 – July 19, 2020.
Hendricks is included in numerous public collections both within the United States and abroad, such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, Florida; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio; and the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Jack Shainman Gallery has represented Hendricks since 2009. His solo exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery include Heart Hands Eyes Mind (2013), Barkley L. Hendricks (2016) and Them Changes (2018).