Friday, February 20, 2009

Harlem: Feb 2009

Barkley Hendricks: Birth of the Cool @ The Studio Museum in Harlem
Harlem, New York by Vince Contarino

Barkley Hendricks’ paintings embody the cool directness and power of portraiture. Many of the works are near life-size and employ a flat, background color…be it his white on white portraits or the gold-leaf backdrop, historically used in Byzantine religious icons. His work is a direct line to a younger generation of artists like Kehinde Wiley and Rashid Johnson, who re staged
Hendricks’ "Brilliantly Endowed (Self-Portrait)", 1977 with his own “Self-portrait in homage to Barkley Hendricks” in 2005.

Hendricks has talked in the past of being inspired by the work of Spanish master Diego Velázquez, but I see a relationship to Alex Katz in some of these works as well. The detached, cool brushwork replaced by a tight, confident style with a sensitivity to palette and texture.

As the title of the show suggests, much of the work channels the iconic style of Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield…borrowing titles of the works from songs of that era portrays the culture and power of music had on his work.

Shinique Smith: Like it Like That @ The Studio Museum in Harlem, Project Space

While not portraiture in the traditional sense, Shinique Smith paints her heart on her sleeve with an inviting installation created specifically for the museum’s recently opened project space.

She creates a complex depth of field by going back and forth between painting directly on the walls and layering calligraphic cut-outs…but upon closer inspection the piece reads more like a mural-as-personal diary. Weaving in textile swatches, photos carousing with friends, teen idol heart-throbs and personal marks of femininity reveals an intimate portrait of the artist.

Smith has a great line and brushstroke, but it’s ultimately her sensitivity to materials and improvisational approach to art-making that allows her work to exist on a much more personal level.

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