Lyman Allyn Art Museum
New London, CT
The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience
Lyman AIIyn Art Museum announces a new one-person exhibition, The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience, opening to the public on Friday, April 13, and on view through June 17, 2001.
The Barkley L, Hendricks Experience encompasses but a small portion of the variety of media in which Hendricks works. The majority of the museum's second level is turned over to this exhibition. The McKee Gallery features the larger-than-life oil portraits, primarily of African-Americans, for which Hendricks is best known. A painting titled Northern Lights, a large 72"x 72" oil, depicts a smiling male showily posing three times - left-facing, full front and right-facing, adorned in a glamourous green leather, fur-trimmed, full-length coat. There is no question that this man loves his outfit as he proudly shows it off to the viewer. And the self-assured, handsomely dressed individuals don't stop there. In Icon for Fifi, Hendricks presents a vibrant young woman dressed completely in bold yellow while the canvas behind her glows in gold leaf, reminiscent of Russian and Italian religious icon paintings. The scale of these paintings, most are actual life-size, creates the effect of being in front of a "real" person. Hendricks' keen ability to capture the subjects' moods and personalities through photo-realistic documentation of their dress, posture and expression creates a unique intimacy between the subject and the viewer. (left: Ma Petite Qumquat, 1983, oil, acrylic, leaf on canvas, 72 x 40 inches; right: Sacrifice of the Watermelon Virgin or Shirt off Her Back, 1987, offset lithography, 22 x 30 inches)
Turning to the Chappell Gallery, the museum displays Barkley L. Hendricks' series of oil landscapes painted in and a tribute to Jamaica, West Indies, where he often travels to paint and "recharge his creative battery." These lush paintings are another type of "portrait" - of nature. These works are landscapes executed in oil and ranging in size from 17" by 27" ovals boldly framed in gold to small, round "jewels" only 8" in diameter. These small environments draw the viewer in to appreciate the tropical settings and tranquil views. The paintings, viewed together, are beautiful and serene "portholes to Paradise." (left: Ft. Charles Crocodile, 1998, oil on canvas, 17 x 27 inches)
Exploring other media of which Hendricks is fond, the Miles Gallery exhibits a series of sanguine conte drawings on paper appreciatively depicting the female form. The American Anatomy Series, colored pencil and collage works on black paper interwoven with personal artistic statements, is on display in the Powers Gallery. Provocative multi-media works on paper are on view in the Hazlewood Gallery. These pieces are highlighted by a timed black light which alternates with regular gallery lighting to reveal elements of the drawings that can be seen only in one or the other of the lighting methods. Visitors are in for a visual surprise. (left: Beautiful Like a Woman - A Real Woman Series, 1992, sanguine conte on paper, 26 x 20 inches)
Barkley L. Hendricks is a Professor of Art at Connecticut College, where he has been teaching since 1972. He received his M.F.A. and B.F.A. from Yale University, as well as his Certificate from The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Hendricks has had many solo and group exhibitions, among them The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Chrysler Museum, The Corcoran Gallery of American Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Delaware Museum of Art, The High Museum, The Springfield Museum of Art, The Armand Hammer Museum, and The Smithsonian Institution. Hendricks' work is represented in numerous public and private collections including The Chrysler Museum, The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, the Forbes Magazine Collection, the Collection of the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Cornell University, The National Gallery of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Hendricks has been the recipient of many awards and fellowships. He has been a Dupont Visiting Scholar and Lecturer at the Art Institute of Boston. Hendricks received the Childe Hassam Purchase Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has received a Purchase Award and an Individual Artist Award from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, an Ambassador Fellowship to China from the People to People Citizen Ambassador Program, an Artist Fellowship to the Brandywine Workshop, a Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and multiple awards and traveling scholarships from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
A large, 48-page color catalogue titled The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience accompanies the exhibition. The catalogue features essays by well-known Art History scholars Richard J. Powell, the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art History at Duke University, and Floyd R. Thomas, Jr., Ph.D., Curator of Art at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. The following two perspectives on the artist and his work, and remarks by the artist, are from the catalogue.
Barkley L. Hendricks: From the Beginning
It has been a long time, thirty or thirty-five odd years or so. There was this young artist, fresh out of school. As a dealer, I was familiar with a variety of artists' work. What Barkley Hendricks was showing me was pure, direct depictions of the world he was growing up in; unadulterated realism. Basketballs on round canvasses; full length, life-size portraits of people doing their thing; intimate but honest depictions of our world, right in your face photos.
I remember one of the first of Barkley's paintings that I sold; a full-length nude portrait of himself with a knit cap on his head, his ever present toothpick and a pair of colorful socks. It had been purchased by Dr. Williams of Philadelphia to be hung in his living room. I was fortunate to be the one to deliver and hang the painting for him. Dr. Williams' mother had no inkling of the subject matter and was very excited when I arrived with the painting. When I unwrapped it, she burst into gales of laughter and at first thought it was a prank. After a second outburst of laughter, she gradually began to accept the painting and then to relate to it proudly. Barkley had made a major statement in his debut as a professional artist.
From the very beginning, we formed a friendship that has kept me familiar with all his works even though I have retired as a dealer. Barkley is skilled in all media and true to his vision. In all the years we have been friends, I have never seen him waver from his integrity. Barkley is an amazing artist with a kaleidoscope of interests and skills. Barkley goes against the notions of the art hierarchy; he continues to do his own thing - real, honest, and a comment on the many things that people do not want to accept or look at. In times when artists attempt to outdo each other, his work says who he is and is a comment on the world around him.
Barkley Hendricks - From My Perspective
Many talented young artists who come to the Yale School of Art for graduate study use their two years in residence to prepare an exhibition to launch a professional career. As few courses are required, they use these two years in what a colleague called a "half-way house." Not so with Hendricks; he used the courses in the school to expand his vision, For example, he pursued two time-consuming, difficult courses in color, invented by Josef Albers. He also pursued photography with Walker Evans. When it came time to pick a Teaching Assistant for Basic Painting, I picked him. I am still in touch with two outstanding students in that class. They verify my judgement. He was patient and sympathetic. And when the call came from Connecticut College, it was a pleasure to recommend him. I must add that it has also been a pleasure to keep up with his career.
Artist Statement - The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience
Rome Rendezvous: Rendezvous with Myself
Rome in the year 2000 is a percolating city. It indeed seemed all roads led there in October of this year. In the summer of 1966, it was certainly on the schedule of many of the William Emlen Cresson Award winners, myself included. Fitted with a three month Eurail Pass, all I needed was a plan. And that I had. Well, kind of. It was a tentative plan which proved to be very flexible. After first visiting those countries where the Pass was invalid, the plan was on track for getting my money's worth from my Pass. Seven days in Istanbul, then I was off to Italy - Florence, Pisa, Venice and the Eternal City were all "must-sees." Great Britain, the Netherlands and Greece were the appetizers for the meal's final course which was the art which was Rome. However, by the time I reached that city, I carried with me the lesson I learned from an experience at the National Gallery of Art in London, an experience which formulated a vision and shaped a philosophy.
Many museums allow students, would-be painters and aspiring artists to paint copies from in front of the originals. I was struck by a Van Dyke, so much so I thought I would also try to do a copy of that painting. Permission was needed from the Director for such a project. After an introduction, I presented him with a letter given to all Academy award winners. Mine read: "Barkley L. Hendricks has been awarded the highest honor given by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The Pennsylvania Academy is the oldest fine arts institution in the United States of America. Please extend to Mr. Hendricks all the professional accordances and privileges commensurate with this prize." The Director gave me the ok within twenty-four hours. While en route to get supplies, I was hit with a jolt from my creative epicenter. "I cannot copy another artist's image, no matter how much I like it," I said to myself. Seven years later, I painted a large canvas of a man wearing a long red coat. The red coat in the Van Dyke was the initial inspiration and theme for my painting. It had to be done Barkley Hendricks style - no copies. Sir Charles, alias Willie Harris was that painting, it is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Recently a colleague from Connecticut College went in search of it at the museum. He was informed it was indeed there, however not currently on exhibit. Also in that collection is George Jules Taylor, one of the paintings exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art as a part of the Black Male Exhibition in 1994.
I hope this exhibition will be an engaging introduction as well as a delightful excursion for all who view it. As far as my experiences are concerned, the experience of travel has saddled me with a thirst for more travel. Lover's Leap in Southfield, Jamaica has inspired my many paintings and watercolors, all of which, like words, only minimally describe the indescribable. Then there was the experience of my first gold leaf painting: a twelve hour, back-bending experience. And so many others...The sobering and saddening photo-op experience with the Ku Klux Klan in 1982. A tears on my watercolor experience which was unrelated and separated by decades from the tears at the coffin of my murdered brother experience. The Julian "Cannonball" Adderly experience set me on the road to the (Charles) Mingus, Miles (Davis) and M. J. Q. (Modern Jazz Quartet) personal and photographic experiences. The part music plays in said experiences is so much more than a mere sound track with background sounds. Of course there are those experiences that have proven themselves to be "beyond words" experiences. Seeing the terribly reproduced photograph of my stolen portrait of Little Old Man turn up on the second page of a brochure highlighting an arts festival in Accra, Ghana in 1996, and the stench of the female dungeon at the Elmina Castle, also in Ghana, both top the list in the "beyond words" experience. This category of experience, needless to say, can shape concepts and alter life directions.
Preparing for this exhibition has already unleashed a bevy of recollection experiences; a dredging operation is underway. To this end, what has been turned over sets the stage for many ideas of significant historical and personal visions from the threshold of this new millennium.
Many heartfelt thanks to all involved with this noteworthy endeavor. Very, very special thanks to my wife, Susan, whose work extended beyond the home, studio and museum. And important acknowledgment to Director Charles Shepard who has made the second time around at the Lyman Allyn Museum of Art a first rate experience.
The artist statement itself reigns supreme in that "beyond words" domain, at least for me. So what you read is my attempt to let you in on something in addition to what you see. After this, you are on your own.
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