Oil, acrylic and Magna on linen canvas, 1976. 1829x1220 mm; 72x48 inches. Signed in oil, upper right.
Provenance: ACA Galleries, New York (1980); The Forbes Collection.
Exhibited: Four Young Realists, ACA Galleries, New York, June - July, 1977; National Annual Midyear Show, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, 1977; Barkley L. Hendricks, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, January 20 - March 30, 1980; Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. February 7 - July 13, 2008, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA, May 9 - August 15, 2009, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, September 18 - December 20, 2009, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, January 23, 2010 - April 18, 2010, with the museum labels on the painting back.
Illustrated: Trevor Schoonmaker. Barkeley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool. Durham, NC: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2008, p. 61, cat. 30; Artforum International, April 2009, front cover.
Steve is an iconic painting that embodies the look and attitude that Barkley Hendricks famously captured in his late 1970s life-size portraits. Steve is an important work by the artist, and only the second of his "white on white" series of paintings to come to auction. In the late 1970s, with Steve, Barkley Hendricks began a series of his large figure portraits in stylish white outfits painted on white backgrounds. In an interview with Thelma Golden, Hendricks called them "double whammies," combining the strong personalities of the figure coupled with the bold formal aspect of his "limited palette series."
Art historian Richard J. Powell has described how both the style and substance in Steve caught the attention of New York Times art reviewer Hilton Kramer's attention at the 1977 ACA gallery exhibition Four Young Realists. Kramer wrote that with Steve, Hendricks "produced a tour-de-force" and "as an added note of audacity, he paints into the reflections of the (figure's) mirrored sunglasses two little cityscapes and what may be a miniature self-portrait of the artist himself at work. It's all quite stunning." This reflection of Hendricks's New London studio in the sunglasses occurs in other works from the period, including his diptych Twins, 1977.
This painting was also famously reproduced on the cover of Artforum magazine. Hendrick's late 1970s paintings are now widely recognized as pioneering accomplishments in American art and portraiture, and significant precursors to many themes found in contemporary art today. Schoonmaker/Golden pp. 60-63; Powell p. 154.