BEVERLY HILLS, CA (November 9, 2020) – UTA Artist Space is pleased to present Liberating Humanity From Within, featuring works from the Estate of Artist Ernie Barnes. The exhibition was curated by Ernie Barnes himself prior to his death in 2009 and was never formally presented as an exhibition until now. The works in this exhibition have prescient meaning, addressing many of the issues we are facing today.
Barnes is best known for creating some of the twentieth century’s most iconic images of African American life, which include The Sugar Shack (1976), The Graduate (1972) and Portrait of Mrs. Wiggles (1975). His unique approach to depicting the human form was informed by his years as a professional athlete, representing an intimate and generous view of life through his lens.
“Ernie’s work played a meaningful part of my childhood and was the visual backdrop for many of us growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It has been incredible to experience these paintings in person,” said Arthur Lewis, Partner & Creative Director of UTA Fine Arts and Artist Space. “We are thrilled to partner with his estate to share his timeless work with the rest of the world.”
Liberating Humanity From Within combines never-before-seen paintings directly from the estate, as well as works collected by personal friends, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and private collections. The majority of the paintings were created in the last decade of his life and look directly and unflinchingly at issues such as racism, climate change and female empowerment. But what makes these works timeless is their ability to transcend the smallness of what preoccupies us in this moment and take us right to the bigger questions at hand: who we are as people, who we are as a society and how we move with grace and humanity into our collective future.
In addition to the original 23 paintings Barnes selected, the exhibition also includes The Sugar Shack (1976), The Graduate (1972), and Portrait of Mrs. Wiggles (1975), all of which appeared in the ‘70s sitcom Good Times. Many may remember The Sugar Shack (1976) as the cover artwork for Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album, I Want You.
“The inspiration behind The Sugar Shack was the experience of having gone to dances in the South, which at the time when I was growing up were segregated. But I didn’t choose to make statements about that in this work. I just wanted to concentrate on the energy of the dancers,” Barnes noted about The Sugar Shack (1976) before his passing. “When it came time to apply my talents to structuring the cultural properties of Black people, dance was one of them. Naturally my mind went back to that first experience. The Sugar Shack is a composite of every club where people gather to dance.”
Throughout the show, there are images of private, tender moments from everyday life such as In the Moment (2007), showcasing a couple embracing, and also large powerful canvases that address uncomfortable racial injustices like A Dream Deferred (1996). There is a thunderous male rapper surrounded by media titled In Da House (1996) and also a musician alone in a room in Somewhere Else (2007). A Moral Imperative (2007) reveals the consequences of our global interconnectedness and Habitat (2007) shows how we must work in unity to build harmony.
“People ask me what Ernie Barnes would say about the current state of affairs,” says Luz Rodriguez, Barnes’ longtime assistant and the current manager of his estate. “He actually answers that question with Liberating Humanity From Within. So now, it’s important and necessary to share this positive and thought-provoking exhibition. He would want his work to help heal, teach and bring joy as we shift collectively into this new era.”
Emmy Award-winning producer and DJ, Niéna Drake, has curated a dedicated soundtrack for the exhibition and visitors will also experience an exclusive piece of spoken word poetry by the legendary J. Ivy, whose been featured on tracks with Kanye West and Jay-Z. UTA Artist Space is partnering with PlayLab, who will build a multi-sensory experience that will transport visitors to the places of Ernie Barnes’ inspiration and imagination. This includes a vintage TV playing episodes of Good Times that feature several of the works in the exhibition, as well as a photographic setting that allows guests to superimpose themselves into an image of The Sugar Shack (1976). Merchandise will also be available and includes a limited run of collectible sculptures produced by Gentle Giant Studios, and more.
Visiting the Artist Space is by appointment only, with a four-guest maximum at any time. All visitors will have to acknowledge via the online appointment system both the health and safety guidelines and their health status before they visit. All visitors will have to wear mask at all times in the artist space. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available on site for guest usage. All guests will have a 30-minute window for viewing the gallery. Guests will not be permitted to the gallery before or after their viewing time. If they arrive earlier, they will be asked to wait in their car until their appointment time. Guests must practice social distancing. There is ample signage throughout the space including arrows on the floor that tell guests which way foot traffic is flowing. Restrooms will be closed to guests and the Artist Space will be deep cleaned on a regular schedule following the close of business each day.
About UTA Artist Space
UTA Artist Space is an exhibition venue in the heart of Beverly Hills that is committed to showcasing art by globally recognized talent. Since its establishment in 2016, UTA Artist Space has presented notable exhibitions with interdisciplinary artists and creatives, including Derrick Adams, Myrtis Bedolla of Galerie Myrtis, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Larry Clark, Petra Cortright, Conrad Egyir, Amanda Hunt, Mariane Ibrahim, Arcmanoro Niles, The Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, The Haas Brothers, and Ai Weiwei, among others. For more information, please visit UTAArtistSpace.com.
About Gentle Giant Studios
For 25 years, Gentle Giant Studios has been one of the top creative service houses in Los Angeles. They are widely regarded as the pioneer in converging 3D Scanning, 3D Modeling, and 3D Printing. It was their early adoption and championing of these technologies that proved the viability of a fully digital workflow. Today, they continue to break new ground in the worlds of Consumer Products, Fine Art, Gaming, Visual Effects, and Experiential Entertainment industries with an unwavering focus on transmitting the authentic vision of their clients.
PLAYLAB, INC. is a Los Angeles-based creative studio founded in 2009 that creates experiences for brands, organizations and human beings. With no particular focus, their work spans a diverse range of disciplines to bring a wide scale of projects to life.
They’ve designed and developed an online living archive for the painter Christopher Wool, directed campaigns for Adidas Skateboarding, created concepts and designs for YEEZY, designed pop-up retail for Drake’s Scorpion tour and ongoing Creative Direction for all aspects of Drake’s ecosystem, co-designed Virgil Abloh’s monograph for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, developed creative strategies for John Elliott, creative directed the launch campaign for Kate Moss’ collection for Zadig & Voltaire, created multiple Campaign Concepts for Nike, designed several runway shows for Louis Vuitton Men’s collection with Virgil Abloh, and much more.