Sedrick Huckaby: Estuary

26 March - 14 May 2021

Philip Martin Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new sculptures and paintings by Sedrick Huckaby. The exhibition is Fort Worth-based artist’s first at the gallery.


Everyday people are the essence of Sedrick Huckaby’s work. “Ordinary people matter,” he comments. “The African-American family and its heritage has been the content of my work for several years,” he writes. “In large-scale portraits of family and friends I try to aggrandize ordinary people by painting them on a monumental scale.” Huckaby’s words and images ask us to think about our communities. They ask us to look hard at the people around us, to really see them, and to listen to the stories they have to tell. “I am most enthusiastic about painting from a live sitter. There is an incredible energy when painting directly from another person and I love the challenge. Sometimes there is conversation, and at other times silence–but always there is a feeling of sharing a small slice of life together. I hope these paintings not only celebrate the sitter’s facial features but also send the message that ordinary people, who may not be great in society’s eyes, should be of paramount importance to us.”


In preparation for his exhibition at Philip Martin Gallery, Huckaby wrote an essay about his practice. Entitled "Estuary," the essay gives us a sense of how Huckaby himself thinks about his work, the people he depicts, and the experiences they have relayed to him:




The estuary is a place where fresh and salt water mix. Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are bodies of water usually found where rivers meet the sea. These places create an ecosystem of unique plant and animal communities.  In essence, they are unusual places. As one would imagine, they are also places where the waters are active, areas of amazing liveliness and beauty.


In life sometimes clean water and salt waters have a meeting place as well.  These occurrences allow for incredibly unique environments, ones with optimal creativity. In these unusual places, good and bad, positive and negative, and saints and sinners sit together to have unique conversations. Somehow, this environment allows for a coming together of opposites - a leveling of sorts.


My exhibition, “Estuary,” will deal with death in the black community, diversity in the African-American family and the continuation/continuity of life. I deal with Black mortality through paintings and sculptures of figures wearing memorial T-shirts - clothing usually worn during a funeral or wake. Some of these figures have quilts in the background speaking to their connection to a spiritual African-American heritage. I try to deal with family diversity by creating individual images of family members and creatively bundling them together. A sense of difference among the groups is taken one step further by grouping various types of traditional works together in un-traditional ways. Distinct variations of materials are used to express other types of differences. These groupings allow the viewer to think about people from different spaces, places, times and even different dimensions coming together and having a dialogue. Although these are thought to be impossible, I like to think that the past, present and future can all converge in the estuaries of life.


Wearing her father’s memorial T shirt, Kenuatra stands in the midst of a grey, expressive cloud posing for her portrait with a look of confidence and sureness. It is a mystery how she is able to stand with such poise while also dealing with her father’s violent death. She and so many of her relatives share an inner strength that is able to endure the most egregious situations. Rhema, the little girl depicted in the sculpture, also has the same look of power, standing with her head held high. We can only imagine that she will face some of the same struggles, hardships and even violence that many other women have been forced to experience in her family. "Still Standing" has brought these cousins together, in solidarity as they share a common strength passed down to them by their ancestors. Rhema has a faint square on her shirts that bears no image. No one knows what image might appear on her shirt in the future. One can only say that she has a powerful spiritual legacy standing with her on life’s journey. The same power that strengthens Kenuatra, and the multitude of kinfolk that came before her, will empower Rhema as well. When one considers this and thinks about the new vice president, Kamala Harris, we can see this same inner strength enabling her as she progresses into uncharted territory for woman.


Halle sits in a school chair holding a cell phone. Gadgets, phones, technology are all thought of as objects that both connect and isolate the youth. Juxtaposed to her downward facing posture, her grandmother Ruthie is standing behind her wearing the memorial shirt of her mother, Halle Carpenter. “Connection” deals with the ideal of being connected with others even though death divides them. Although death is represented by the memorial T shirt it is not depicted in a negative way. Instead, it is a type of memorial, a respectful remembrance and celebration of the person’s life. The different forms, sculpture and painting, describes the existence of differences in spaces or places of existence. For now, young Halle still sits with her grandmother, but if or when life so chooses she will sit alone. But the painting relays another message - that she will never be alone. The painting suggests that those who are dead, those who are presently living and those who will die can somehow stay connected.


In “Amen,” Halle looks with a slight bit of astonishment toward her mother. Letitia holds up a sonogram as if to compare it with the person who stands before her. Is it possible that little Amen, who never survived the pregnancy, is standing before her as a vibrant youth? The two painted figures exist in a two dimensional, imagined world, yet the sculpted figure exists as a physical, three-dimensional form. Food from the local markets, coupons for meat and veggies, politics and sports of the day are substance from which he came and yet he stands in a very different form. These remnants from daily life have been reconstructed into a new form. Contemplation of the form suggest that a paradigm shift could cause us to ask an unusual question. Is it possible to have an encounter that brings us face to face with the impossible? Can a dream, a premonition, a vision or some other worldly experience bring us close to the love ones we have lost? The painting uses portraits of Amen’s brother, Rising Sun, to image the person who passed away in the womb as an older youth. The piece is a reunion with Amen, the son who was lost in a miscarriage. Will he know their names? Will they know his face, if they see him again in the heavens?


Ultimately, I see the incarnation of Christ as an estuary. Wherever he showed up the area became a creative place of stirring waters where the heavenly met the earthly. Although he claimed to be the king of heaven, he was born as a Jewish peasant. The unusual was commonplace according to those who knew him. Some hated him because he claimed to be a teacher of righteousness, yet he was willing to sit down to eat and drink wine with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners of all types. The sinless one didn't mind going into the stirring waters with all types of people. Perhaps he was the only ancient “King” who claimed that his purpose is to serve the people, rather than have the people serving him.  At that moment in history Jerusalem and its surrounding provinces became a spiritual estuary, and as the story goes, death was swallowed up by life.


With my current work I see myself as standing in life’s estuary and looking for meaning as I investigate its brackish waters.  I hope the audience will be able to take this journey with me.


Sedrick Huckaby (b. 1975, Fort Worth, TX) received a BFA from Boston University (Boston, MA) and an MFA from Yale University (New Haven, CT). His work is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Philip Martin Gallery. In May 2021, Huckaby’s work will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art (Austin, TX). In fall 2021, Huckaby will be included in, ”Kinship,” curated by Dorothy Moss, alongside Njideka Akunyili Crosby and others at the National Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC). Recent solo exhibitions include Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, TX); African American Museum (Dallas, TX); The Grace Museum (Abilene, TX) and Danforth Museum of Art (Framingham, MA). Huckaby has been the recipient of awards and fellowships such as Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant (New York, NY); Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (New York, NY); The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition (Washington, D.C.); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (New York, NY); and the 2018 Texas State Visual Artist Award. His work is in the collections of Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA); the African American Museum (Dallas, TX); McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, TX); Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University (Durham, NC); Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis, MN); and the U.S. Embassy, Namibia (Republic of Namibia, South Africa). His work has been featured in various publications including “Artforum,” “Hyperallergic,” “National Geographic,” and “Houston Chronicle.” Huckaby lives and works in Fort Worth, TX.


In accordance with Los Angeles County Covid-19 protocol, Philip Martin Gallery is currently open by appointment only. To make an appointment, or to get additional images, or information please email, or call 213-422-9286. Philip Martin Gallery is located at 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034 in the Culver City area of Los Angeles between Venice Blvd. and Washington Blvd., just south of the 10 Freeway.