Birth of the Cool

Birth of the Cool - color portrait
Adoption Amount: $500
Category: Build and Access the Collection
Location: Smithsonian Libraries Research Annex

Birth of the cool

By Barkley L. Hendricks. Durham, NC: Nasher Museum of Art, c2008.

Birth of the Cool may be the coolest book you will ever see. In this 2008 exhibition catalog of his first retrospective, Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) distills black identity into powerful three-quarter and full-length portraits that teem with style and attitude. His sitters are unapologetic in their self-presentation and the result is a phenomenal elevation of African Americans who would have otherwise gone unnoticed in the decades immediately following the civil rights movement. The title of this catalog, edited by Trevor Schoonmaker, stems from the iconic 1957 Miles Davis album that came to typify cool jazz. Right after it debuted, music critic Winthrop Sargeant likened Davis’ work on his album Birth of the cool as a “…composer with a great sense of aural poetry and a very fastidious feeling for tone color…” Likewise, Hendricks' penchant for astute color and his "black is beautiful" aesthetic are just as poetic. Hendricks died in 2017 at the age of 72. This book, though cool, is now out of print and exceedingly hard to find.

Discover more about this book in our Catalog.