Portrait of a man in a white coat, white paints, and sunglasses against a white background.

Barkley L. Hendricks (American, 1945–2017)
Steve, 1976
Magna, acrylic, and oil on linen
72 × 48 in. (182.9 × 121.9 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase and gift with funds from the Arthur M. Bullowa Bequest by exchange, the Jack E. Chachkes Endowed Purchase Fund, and the Wilfred P. and Rose J. Cohen Purchase Fund
© Barkley L. Hendricks and the Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY. Courtesy of the Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.


Hendricks photographed the subject against a graffiti-marked wall, which he replaced in this painting with a matte-white background. How and when the artist met the subject is unknown. Reflected in the sunglasses are the windows of Hendricks‘s State Street studio. Such meticulous architectural details, along with the miniature self-portrait at the right side of the glasses, evoke the paintings of the fifteenth-century Flemish artist Jan van Eyck, whom Hendricks admired. (An example of Van Eyck’s work is in the Frick’s collection.) Hendricks related his white-on-white paintings to his basketball-themed works. “In a white-on-white painting of a black person,” he remarked, the person’s head “floats much the same way” as the basketballs in his paintings, adding, “to me, flying is the ultimate freedom.”

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