WALTHAM, MASS.- The Rose Art Museum
presents My Mechanical Sketchbook Barkley L. Hendricks & Photography on view February 10July 24, 2022. The exhibition explores the significant and multifaceted role of the camera and the photographic image within Barkley L. Hendrickss artistic practice. Co-curated by Dr. Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator, and Dr. Elyan J. Hill, Guest Curator of African and African Diaspora Art, My Mechanical Sketchbook displays never-before-seen works on paper, Polaroids, and photographsmany from a treasure trove discovered after the artists death in 2017.
By displaying Hendrickss riveting photographs, Polaroids, and drawings alongside some of the artists well-known oil and acrylic paintings, we hope to shed new light on complex and fascinating aspects of his creative process, artistic versatility, and brilliant, all-encompassing vision explained Dr. Ankori.
While Hendricks is internationally renowned as a virtuoso painter in oils and acrylics, My Mechanical Sketchbook presents the artists photographs as autonomous artworks, as models for his paintings, and as images produced by his mechanical sketchbook (the artists term for his camera), which helped him capture and recall sights and insights gleaned at home and abroad.
Deeply impacted by the lack of Black representation in portraiture after visiting art museums in Europe in the 1960s, Hendricks would go on to produce a rich and varied pantheon of monumental Black subjects in his paintings and photographs. His portraits counter Black invisibility while challenging the hypervisibility of Black people in the public imagination, confronting stereotypes that project fear and hypersexuality onto Black bodies.
Throughout his life, Hendricks photographed people he found visually compelling, engaging, and remarkable. His Polaroids, photographs, and paintings lovingly recorded the people around him and those who were part of his lifemany of whom belonged to overlooked communities from Africa and the African diaspora, stated Dr. Hill.
Hendricks had an astute talent for capturing the ways people chose to fashion and present themselves to a world that often denied their humanity. The photographs convey the confidence, defiance, pride, beauty, and joy of people taking pleasure in being seen and desired, highlighting Blackness as a beautiful spectrum rather than a monolith.
Exploring themes related to fashion, desire, technology, and Americas overt racism, My Mechanical Sketchbook highlights Hendrickss use of the camera to produce portraits that defy categorization and insist on his subjects' full humanity and complexity.
My Mechanical Sketchbook Barkley L. Hendricks & Photography is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Jack Shainman Gallery, the Barkley L. Hendricks Estate, Lizbeth Krupp, and Kimerly Rorschach and John Hart.