A New Book on Barkley Hendricks Shows How the Artist ‘Made Everyone Feel Like a Photographer’s Model’—See Images Here
The late artist Barkley L. Hendricks was best known as a painter, often capturing the swagger and gravitas of everyday Black people. He set full-length portraits of figures against monochromatic backgrounds so that both the person’s expression and their clothing and accessories were on full display. The paintings are as much a documentation of changing sartorial trends as they are snapshots of people.
An immensely popular traveling exhibition “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool” helped cement the artist’s legacy within the art-historical canon, but most only know him as a painter. In a new book published by SKIRA and Jack Shainman Gallery, which represents the artist’s estate, Hendricks is revealed as a prolific and impressive photographer, too.
“It was through photography that Barkley L. Hendricks got out into the world,” writes Anna Arabindan-Kesson, assistant professor of African American and Black diasporic art at Princeton University, in the foreword to the book. Armed with what he referred to as his “mechanical sketchbook,” Hendricks took in the world through his lens, often using photographs he took of particularly stylish or confident-looking people on the street as the basis for his portraits.
Arabindan-Kesson, who knows from personal experience, notes that Hendricks “made everyone feel like a photographer’s model,” a sentiment that comes through in the faces of his subjects, who are often captured beaming and strutting.
Barkley didn’t only photograph people, though. As a student at Yale University’s MFA program, he took classes from Walker Evans and Tom Brown and learned all about the mechanics of the art form. In some works he homes in on shadows and textures, sometimes he was in pure documentation-mode, as in shots of Anita Hill appearing on TV in the 1990s, or of a particularly incongruent handmade yard sale sign with a Confederate flag taped to it.
The book features more than 60 photographs taken between 1965 and 2004, and is the fourth in a five-volume series dedicated to the artist’s life and career, organized by his widow along with Jack Shainman. The other editions include Works on Paper, Landscape Paintings, and Basketball.
Barkley L. Hendricks: Photography ($25) is published by SKIRA and Jack Shainman Gallery. See images from the book, below.
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