The portrait artist Barkley L. Hendricks, who died in 2017, considered the Frick Selection just one of his favourite museums. Now Hendricks’s celebratory, massive-scale paintings of Black Americans will hold in that establishment, very long the house of Rembrandt, Bronzino and Van Dyck, as the very first artist of color to have a solo clearly show at the 87-yr-aged Frick.
In the tumble of 2023, the museum will intersperse about a dozen of Hendricks’s portraits among its individual holdings in an exhibition at its short term home, Frick Madison. Hendricks manufactured existence-dimensions portraits of Black buddies, family and strangers he encountered on the road — paintings that only just lately have been widely identified by museums and the artwork market place but assisted established an assertive tone for figuration and opened the discipline for many more youthful artists.
“He was portray in the previous learn custom — the good quality is fantastic, their visible impact is there,” said Aimee Ng, a curator at the Frick. “We needed to foreground his paintings as we would treat any historical artist.”
Ng is organizing the clearly show with Antwaun Sargent, a director at Gagosian, who will serve as a consulting curator and originally proposed the plan.
“You have a painter who is pretty considerably in the custom of the outdated masters, and who was largely not revered in the course of his time,” Sargent said. “He was wondering about modern tradition, but he was also pondering deeply about our heritage, about artists like Whistler.”
Hendricks’s portraits of Black adult males and females will cling all over the museum. A canvas of his cousin in an Afro, “Lawdy Mama” (1969), for case in point, employs the gold leafing technique employed in religious depictions, and is exemplified by a team of early Italian Renaissance panels in the Frick’s assortment.
The curators pointed to his limited-palette painting “Steve” (1976), noting it evokes Northern Renaissance artists like Jan van Eyck, whose “The Virgin and Boy or girl with St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth, and Jan Vos” resides in Frick Madison’s Northern European galleries.
“We’re not cornering him off — we’re placing the do the job in the assortment and indicating, he is as important as anything else on any other wall in the museum,” Sargent reported. “I’m intrigued in what the reaction will be and what connection any of our people are heading to make in between Barkley’s do the job and the work of these European aged masters.”
A catalog checking out Hendricks’s impact will involve contributions by artists this sort of as Derrick Adams, Nick Cave and Toyin Ojih Odutola, acknowledging Hendricks’s prevalent impact.
“For the generation of portrait painters that arrived soon after him — Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, even Rashid Johnson — he was an important predecessor,” Sargent claimed. “I would even argue that, devoid of Barkley’s perform, you do not get this instant in figuration that you’re seeing these days.”
Hendricks’s curiosity in Black figuration in the 1960s and 1970s put him outside the house the mainstream of Black artists all through that period, several mainly preoccupied with civil rights and the Black Electric power movement.
His operate was largely unacknowledged till just lately, when the artwork entire world has started to proper the canon, and when Black portraiture has develop into popular.
Though the moment would seem overdue for the Frick to aim on a modern day Black artist, the museum — whose mandate is to accumulate and present European art from the 14th century to the 19th century — acknowledges that there will inevitably be some pushback from purists.
The Frick has tentatively been experimenting with a lot more progressive programming. Its latest venture, “Living Histories: Queer Sights and Old Masters,” attributes the operate of 4 artists — Doron Langberg, Salman Toor, Jenna Gribbon, and Toyin Ojih Odutola — checking out concerns of gender and queer id that have usually been excluded from narratives of early modern European art.
“There are traditionalists who do not think there is a put for artists of color since that is not what the Frick has been usually accomplishing, and there are those people who are definitely dying for this sort of detail,” Ng stated. “Our young fellows group is more substantial than it has ever been. That tells me we are going in the appropriate way. I really do not want to alienate men and women who have been with the Frick for 40, 50, 60 decades. I do want to bridge the historic assortment and other artwork.”