Barkley I. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, Paintings 1964-2007

Main Gallery May 16–Aug 22, 2009

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Barkley I. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, Paintings 1964-2007
May 16–Aug 22, 2009





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Barkley Hendricks, Fela: Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen..., 2002 (detail)

The renowned artist’s first career retrospective highlights his paintings from 1964 to 2007. While Hendricks has worked in a variety of media throughout his career, and has explored diverse subject matter, he is best known for his striking and provocative life-sized portraits of everyday African-American people from the urban northeast. Bringing to mind American realism, pop culture, and post-modernism in a way uniquely his own, Hendricks’ pioneering contributions to African-American portraiture and conceptualism claims a compelling space somewhere between portraitists Chuck Close and Alex Katz, and African-American conceptualists David Hammons and Adrian Piper. At times cool, at times confrontational, sometimes sexually charged, and always empowering, the work reveals the artist’s keen eye for his subject’s attire, attitude, style, and point of view. Hendricks’ groundbreaking body of work has both influenced and paved the way for many of today’s generation of artists.

Hendricks calls his camera his “mechanical sketchbook,” as many of his paintings are realized from photographs of people he encountered in daily life.

Birth of the Cool is organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, North Carolina.

The exhibition catalog includes essays by Schoonmaker; Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; and Franklin Sirmans, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Menil Collection.

Following its presentation at SMMoA, the exhibition will travel to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. It was also shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Born in Philadelphia, the artist studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before receiving his B.F.A and M.F.A. at Yale University, where he studied with legendary photographer Walker Evans. He is currently a Professor of Art Studio at Connecticut College, in New London, Connecticut.

Birth of the Cool has been named one of Vogue Magazine’s top 25 cultural events of the year.


The exhibition was organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

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

Support for the presentation at SMMoA is generously provided by the Peter Norton Family Foundation on behalf of Eileen Harris Norton. Additional support provided by Price Latimer Agah, Janine and Lyndon Barrois, and V. Joy Simmons, M.D.