Music Art

Ernie Barnes’ work come to life at this L.A gallery

Outdated-school fabric banners drape throughout the facade of an unassuming, single-story constructing on a Beverly Hills facet road. The central signal, meant to look hand-painted, welcomes guests to “The Sugar Shack.” There’s a smooth classic blue Cadillac parked on the entrance touchdown. From the road, the frosted home windows look like crowded with the silhouettes of revelers in movement.

You wish to be proper in there with them, shifting to what they’re grooving to. It’s the identical impact that viewing an Ernie Barnes portray can have — you wish to be inside his soulful depictions of crowded juke joints and dance halls, residing it up whereas getting down.

“Ernie Barnes: The place Music and Soul Reside,” presents up the following neatest thing. The exhibition, which opens Wednesday at UTA Artist Area Los Angeles, is a survey of the artist’s music-inspired works. (Ortuzar Tasks and Andrew Kreps will co-present different of Barnes’ works at Frieze Los Angeles this week.) When you move by the entrance doorways, you’re time-warped again to the Seventies, the last decade related to a few of his most iconic works.

The previous professional soccer participant turned skilled artist is greatest recognized for his portray “The Sugar Shack,” which was famously featured within the closing credit of the groundbreaking Seventies sitcom “Good Occasions.” So it’s becoming that Barnes’ portrait of the TV household the Evanses hangs within the entryway. It’s the right piece for priming the nostalgia pump. It’s additionally the one piece during which figures are nonetheless or solemn.

A painting of people rapturously dancing.

Ernie Barnes’ “The Sugar Shack” (1976), acrylic on canvas, 36 inches by 48 inches.

(UTA Artist Area and the Ernie Barnes Property)

“Ernie’s work have been uplifting — there’s pleasure, there’s nothing melancholy,” mentioned Luz Rodriguez, director of the Ernie Barnes Property. She partnered with UTA in November 2020 for a broader retrospective present, which was reportedly curated by the artist himself earlier than his demise in 2009. That assortment roamed amongst such matters as the civil rights motion, sports activities and world warming, however “The place Music and Soul Reside” is all concerning the beat.

The 25 works presently on show depict individuals in movement, overcome by the ability of rhythm — whether or not they’re on a densely packed dance flooring, in a accomplice’s embrace or passionately taking part in an instrument. UTA Artist Area director Zuzanna Ciolek describes the exhibition as “a deep dive into the significance of music in Ernie’s life and his relationship with musicians in L.A., a few of them being his earliest patrons.”

Barnes counted the Staples Singers, Motown impresario Berry Gordy, document producer Lou Adler and Invoice Withers amongst his collectors. In 2008, Withers commissioned him to create a portray impressed by his track “Grandma’s Arms.” When Barnes died the next 12 months, the soul singer spoke at his funeral. At that very same service, fifth Dimension members Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. sang their hit “Up, Up and Away” to honor their pal.

“He beloved music all his life,” Rodriguez mentioned as she walked by the area within the run-up to the opening. She listed such inspirations as his father taking part in piano within the household’s Durham, N.C., residence, the choirs he grew up listening to in church and the late-’80s information of Polish jazz-pop singer Basia that he’d play in his L.A. studio whereas portray. (“He listened to the hell out of her!”)

Throughout his five-decade profession, Barnes created art work for seven album covers; 4 of these unique work will probably be proven collectively for the primary time. Guests will get an up-close view of “Late Evening DJ,” which turned the quilt of Curtis Mayfield’s 1980 album “One thing to Consider In”; “The Maestro,” utilized by Houston jazz band the Crusaders for 1984’s “Ghetto Blaster”; and “In Rapture,” which graced the entrance of B.B. King’s 2000 launch “Makin’ Love Is Good for You” with Barnes’ signature muse, the dancing lady carrying a slinky yellow costume.

A painting of a woman in a yellow dress dancing with abandon.

Ernie Barnes’ “In Rapture” (2000), acrylic on canvas, 36 inches by 24 inches

(UTA Artist Area and the Ernie Barnes Property)

After which, in fact, there’s Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album “I Need You,” which positioned “The Sugar Shack” entrance and heart and prompted myriad musicians to knock on Barnes’ door looking for covers of their very own. (The portray’s reputation hasn’t waned in all this time — at a Christie’s public sale in Could 2022, it offered for about $15.2 million.)

The connection between Gaye and Barnes additionally impressed the designers at Playlab Inc., who collaborated with UTA to rework the gallery area, as they’d for the 2020 present. In keeping with Playlab’s Dillon Kogle, when the L.A.-based artistic studio began conceiving design concepts in September 2022, they sought tales from Rodriguez about Barnes’ life.

“One of many tales that we honed in on was this anecdote of Marvin Gaye wanting to purchase one in all his work that he had in his automotive,” Kogle mentioned, referencing an oft-told story mentioned to have taken place after the pair completed taking part in a recreation of pickup basketball. “The casualness of that interplay impressed the set up piece that sits outdoors of the UTA Area. The automotive is an effective instance of attempting to drag one thing out of these tales that’s not essentially pictured within the work … it’s bringing the soul and the life round the work to the floor.”

“We’re sort of leaving the breadcrumbs for the tales of the place and the time the place these work have been created,” his mission accomplice Jeff Franklin added.

A painting of a figure reaching to grasp hands of other figures below.

Ernie Barnes’ “N’ da Home” (1996), acrylic on canvas, 48 inches by 60 inches

(Jeff McLane / UTA Artist Area and the Ernie Barnes Property

The workforce created what they’ve dubbed Membership UTA. In the principle gallery, a large-scale re-creation of the 1971 portray “The Disco” fills the again wall, put in above a vibrant purple stage, the place such musical friends as Compton home/hip-hop producer Channel Tres and co-founder of native artist collective Soulection, Andre Energy, will carry out throughout Wednesday’s opening reception. Stage lights bounce off a mirror ball hung from the wood rafters of the in any other case dimly lighted room. Stacked loudspeakers are clustered in every nook and the ground is roofed with vinyl that mimics the hardwood slats depicted in lots of Barnes’ occasion scenes.

Within the subsequent room, one other of the material banners — an allusion to frequent fixtures within the background of the artist’s works — bears the artist’s quote: “I work from ardour. I work from human motion.” And within the closing gallery, “Late Evening DJ” hangs solo in an intimate backstage inexperienced room of types (albeit, deep purple).

“We have been attempting to create an enticing area that goes past the white-walled gallery that artwork is so usually seen in,” Kogle mentioned.

We wished to be sure that it felt like — even in its static state — motion was there,” Franklin added. “These work have been made by Ernie to evoke a way of enjoyable and delight round music. The problem to us was to make an area that additionally had that very same feeling.”

‘Ernie Barnes: The place Music and Soul Reside’

The place: UTA Artist Area, 403 Foothill Street, Beverly Hills
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. By way of April 1.
Information: (310) 579-9850,

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