Barkley L. Hendricks is, quite easily, the most outstanding arbiter of understated style there is. With his iconic, large-scale figurative paintings, he presents his subjects in a cool-handed way which provides them with the space to be prominent and in-control, even if their elegantly clothed bodies seems to recede into the canvas.

It's a masterful touch that is quietly impressive. With the above painting, October's gone... Goodnight (1973), the effect is unmissable across the triplicate form of an elegant woman, standing in what could easily be an archival, columnar halter dress from Halston's heydays. We first see the woman, with that perfect brown-bronze skin, a tight Afro, and the slightly nonchalant stare that looks out beyond the rimmed spectacles and over our heads.

And the dress - such a classic piece - is an afterthought, a prop to her moment. 

Which is a bold way to render a portrait, given that the reverse is often true - we first see the garment, the guise, and the connotations that accompany one's sartorial choices, before we begin to notice the individual dwelling somewhere beneath the layers. Hendricks' simplicity was brilliant then, and it's brilliant now. 

See more of Hendricks' works at the Jack Shainman Gallery

 

NB Image Courtesy Jack Shainman

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