Roll Over Rembrandt!
by Karen Gormandy, Fountain House Studio Director
The Frick Museum, temporarily relocated on Madison Avenue, is self described as an international premier museum and research center known for its collection of distinguished Old Master paintings, European sculpture and decorative arts. Old Master is broadly defined as any painter of skill who worked in Europe before 1800. Working in Europe excluded a larger number of folks. “Old” excluded a good bit more.
Not so today!
When the elevator opened on the fourth floor of the museum a gold leaf painting of a gorgeous African American women circa 1969 greeted us; Lawdy Mama, in baroque iconographic style, was flanked by two pearly white busts of The Frick Collection’s Armand-Thomas Hue, Marquis de Miromesnil (left) and Madame His (right) by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
The "old" and the contemporary
For our monthly museum trip in November, the five of us, Aracelis, Silvia, Arturo, Mathew and me attended the Frick Madison, specifically to see Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick.
Born in 1945, Barkley L. Hendricks died only six years ago in 2017. His realist and post-modern oil paintings of Black Americans living in urban areas began in the 1960s and 1970s. With a career spanning decades, he could most certainly be referred to as a master.
The traditional old masters, Hendricks observed “were dealing with the monied folks of Holland.” Camera in hand, Hendricks sought to change the “limited representation of black figures in Western art history, and how few of those depicted have been truly humanizing or personalized portraits”
"October's Gone...Goodnight," 1973
He photographed relatives along with strangers he encountered on the street and applying the dignity endowed upon the monied subjects, he immortalized his.
Hendricks created pieces that draw from styles and traditions of old masters and masterfully transcended them. His bold works holding their own amongst the Whistlers and the Gainsboroughs. Larger than life, everyday people were captured in Hendrick’s compelling marriage of American realism and post-modernism
Mat commented, “it was interesting comparing and contrasting the upper crust portraits of aristocracy by Thomas Gainsborough and van Dyck, juxtaposed against Barkley Hendricks' every day people circa 1970.”
"Blood (Donald Formey)," 1975
Hendricks' subjects were not to be upstaged by their settings and boldly placed front and center on the canvas, framed by nothing but monochromatic white, pink or yellow backgrounds. In October Gone… Goodnight her brown skin and black hair carve through white canvas and her white dress.
As we walked through the galleries Aracelis pointed out, “I really enjoyed seeing how he used various styles in light and dark on forms especially fabric materials worn by his models.” Removed from the props that stamp and date them, Hendricks' subjects are timeless and can be reincarnated on the stylish streets of Harlem, alive then and still alive today.
To learn more about the exhibit folks can read Thelma Golden’s, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley and others who contributed essays to the catalogue.
Mat, Karen, and Araclis
“I truly liked being able to experience the essence of the art and hope more people will go to the Frick Madison.” ●
Barkley L Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick is on view through January 7, 2024.
The Frick Collection
Open Thursdays through Sundays
10AM - 6PM
945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.*
New York, NY 10021
For tickets and info, click here.
#ChasingArt is a blog series by Fountain House Studio Director, Karen Gormandy, that reveals highlights and thoughts from our monthly museum trips.
On the third Saturday of each month, Fountain House Studio invites its members on an excursion to visit one of the hundreds of art museums across New York City. Read about past trips here.
Want to learn more about the Fountain House Studio? Visit Studio.
Photos courtesy of Karen Gormandy.