Past Exhibitions / Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool

February 7, 2008 - July 13, 2008

The Nasher Museum presented the first career painting retrospective of the renowned American artist Barkley L. Hendricks. He was born on April 16, 1945, in Philadelphia, and passed away in New Haven, Connecticut, on April 18, 2017, at the age of 72. Hendricks’s unique work resides at the nexus of American realism and post-modernism, a space somewhere between portraitists Chuck Close and Alex Katz and pioneering black conceptualists David Hammons and Adrian Piper. He is best known for his stunning, life-sized portraits of people of color from the urban northeast.

Click any image in the slideshow below for full, uncropped images.

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. This unprecedented exhibition of Hendricks’s paintings included work from 1964 to the present. Trevor Schoonmaker, Chief Curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum, organized the show. The exhibition catalogue, distributed by Duke University Press, includes contributions from Schoonmaker, Richard J. Powell, the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Franklin Sirmans, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Menil Collection.

During the exhibition at the Nasher Museum, a video camera in the frame of  Fela: Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen sent a live feed to the website. In this interactive installation, we saw the perspective of the late Nigerian Afrobeat musician and activist, Fela Kuti, who looked at viewers while they looked at him.

The Nasher Museum’s collection includes three paintings and three photographs by Hendricks.

The exhibition and related programs were 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.


February 7, 2008 – July 13, 2008: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

November 12 – March 15, 2009: Studio Museum in Harlem

May 16 – August 22, 2009: Santa Monica Museum of Art

October 17 – Jan 3, 2010: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

January 30 – April 18, 2010: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

IMAGE: Barkley L. Hendricks, Self Portrait (detail). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.