press release

Best known for his life-sized portraits of ordinary people living in his urban northeast community of Connecticut, Barkley L. Hendricks’s bold portrayal of his subject’s attitude and style elevates the common man and woman to celebrity status. Organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, curator of contemporary art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool is the first painting retrospective of the American artist, and includes over 50 works from 1964 to the present. For CAMH’s presentation, a series of photographic works by the artist from a correlated exhibition, Walkin' with Walker: Narrative Photography of Barkley L. Hendricks, will be included. Spanning four decades of work, Walkin’ with Walker was organized by The African American Museum in Philadelphia and co-curated by Barkley L. Hendricks and Richard J. Watson, curator of exhibitions.

Hendricks’s stylistic renderings connect the art movements of American realism and post-modernism while touching upon many of the art movements of the 1960s and 70s—pop art, photorealism, minimalism, even black aesthetic nationalism. His work occupies a space somewhere between portraitists Chuck Close and Alex Katz and pioneering black conceptualists David Hammons and Adrian Piper. Cool, empowering and sometimes confrontational, Hendricks's artistic privileging of a culturally complex black body has paved the way for today's younger generation of artists.

“Hendricks is a sophisticated practitioner who combines impressive references, forms, and techniques in renderings that seem to cut to the core, to reveal his subjects as vulnerable individuals even as they self-consciously pose in displays of hipness,” says Janet Koplos (as reviewed in Art in America, November 2008).

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is the final touring venue for Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool after stops in New York at the Studio Museum in Harlem; California at the Santa Monica Museum of Art; and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Barkley L. Hendricks was born in Philadelphia in 1945. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts from Yale University. He is a professor of art at Connecticut College in New London, where he has been teaching since 1972.

Hendricks’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and Europe, and include venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.

His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; and Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

The exhibition and related programs are sponsored in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.; National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art; Mary Duke Biddle Foundation; and North Carolina Arts Council with funding from the State of North Carolina.

Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool