I wasn’t part of any “school.” The association I had with artists in Philadelphia didn’i inspire me in any direction other than my own. I spent time looking at the Old Masters. — Barkley L. Hendricks
“Since opening in 1935, The Frick Collection has inspired generations of artists who have engaged with the complex legacies and enduring importance of Old Master painting. Barkley L. Hendricks was one such artist, and the Frick—with its iconic portraits by Rembrandt, Bronzino, Van Dyck, and others—was one of Hendricks’s favorite museums. On view this fall at Frick Madison, Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick presents fourteen early works by this pioneering American artist who, beginning in the late 1960s, revolutionized contemporary portraiture by uniting portraits of Black figures with traditions of European painting. His work has inspired some of the most prominent artists of today, including Derrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley. Frick Madison is a particularly appropriate venue for this show, as it was in the Breuer building (then the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art) that Hendricks first showed his art in a New York City museum exhibition, in 1981.” — The Frick
Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick, which will display paintings drawn from both public and private collections, is organized by the Frick’s Curator Aimee Ng and Consulting Curator Antwaun Sargent.
Comments Ng, “The Frick offers stirring encounters with figures painted centuries ago. As our temporary display at Frick Madison has shown, these works seen in a new light can engage visitors so differently outside of the Frick mansion, in the Brutalist setting of the Breuer building. Here, many of our visitors are new to the Frick, a revelation that has prompted reflection on who the Frick serves, has served, and will continue to serve. This project—the first major museum exhibition and catalogue to focus solely on Hendricks’s early period of portraiture—allows us to consider connections the Frick has made with artists since it became a public museum in 1935. Hendricks’s astonishing portraits of predominantly Black figures, not represented in the Frick’s historic paintings yet who, with their self-assured style, appear right at home among them, grants unprecedented opportunities to celebrate and explore the Frick’s collection, Hendricks’s groundbreaking innovations, and the bridges between them.”
Adds Sargent, “When Aimee and I first began speaking about the Frick and its place in today’s world, I suggested an exhibition on Barkley L. Hendricks—obviously because of his interest in historic art as he developed his own style of portraiture of Black subjects, but also because the quality, dignity, and visual impact of his paintings are what I would think Henry Clay Frick might be drawn to if he were collecting now. The catalogue accompanying the exhibition is an exciting way to highlight and reflect on Hendricks’s own legacies, how he has inspired generations of artists and designers and still does today. Presenting Hendricks’s art at a storied institution like the Frick pays due tribute to the artist’s historic significance, and it also honors the evolving role of the Frick in modern American culture.”
Title image: Lawdy Mama flanked at the exhibition’s entrance with Frick Collection works by Jean-Antoine Houdon; photo: George Koelle. Barkley L. Hendricks, Lawdy Mama, 1969, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 53 3/4 x 36 1/4 in. (136.5 x 92.1 cm), Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Stuart Liebman, in memory of Joseph B. Liebman.
Images courtesy The Frick Collection.