not but nothing other: African-American Portrayals, 1930s to Today

Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017)
North Philly Niggah (William Corbett), 1975

In a posthumous tribute to Hendricks, critic Antwaun Sargent celebrates “his cast of ordinary icons, who root the Black image in real life,” singling out this portrait of “a fiercely chic brother from the hood who shows his sensibility” in his sartorial flair—a long peach trench coat with fur lapels, complemented by a magenta shirt—and in his cool, appraising gaze. “When looking at paintings like this,” Sargent concludes, “it becomes clear that Hendricks was a modern master who painted us.”

Indeed, Hendricks’s works are embedded in both the street—where he was drawn to individuals’ attitude, style and soul—and the museum, where he saw himself interceding in the great tradition of Western portraiture, which had largely excluded the Black subject. From this conjunction, he produced paintings at once utterly contemporary and enduring in their subjects’ dignity and grandeur, icons of cool that are also technical masterpieces of color and facture.

Click here to hear Derek Scott talk about this work.

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