Ernie Barnes at CAAM
|Ernie Barnes, Sugar Shack, 1976|
Barnes was a nerdy kid who read art books at the home of his housekeeper mother's white employer, admiring Michelangelo, El Greco, and Toulouse Lautrec. He was troubled by bullies until a teacher convinced him to go out for sports. After playing for the Baltimore Colts, San Diego Chargers, and Denver Broncos, Barnes segued to an art career. He is best known for Sugar Shack, a painting that appeared on the cover of a Marvin Gaye album and was featured in the 1970s sitcom Good Times. For those who don't know who Marvin Gaye is, Barnes also has a Kanye West connection. West commissioned Barnes to create an over-the top ceiling painting for his dining room, commemorating the 2002 crash that nearly killed him. In A Life Restored, an angel saves Yeezy from the Grim Reaper.
|Ernie Barnes, A Life Restored, 2005|
|Ernie Barnes, Fastbreak, 1987|
|Ernie Barnes, The Dream Unfolds, 1996|
In other paintings Barnes take a distinctly unromantic view of pro sports. He regarded American football as brutal and mercenary after a fellow player died of a stroke or neck fracture. The unusual angles and foreshortenings of his paintings seem to say, sports are not pretty.
|Ernie Barnes, Title IX, 1999|
Barnes' pictures of African American life had their origins in a group of paintings of the artist's Jewish neighbors in L.A.'s Fairfax district. The black genre scenes owe something to the caricatural side of Archibald Motley, but Barnes' figure proportions lend an otherworldly element unlike anything Motley did. Some of Barnes' paintings are framed in relics of the white picket fence at Barnes' childhood home in North Carolina.
|Ernie Barnes, Hoop Dreams, 1978|
|Ernie Barnes, Hula Hoop, 1979|
|Ernie Barnes, Late Night DJ, 1980|