Hendrix has been rocking a camera since his teenage years in North Philadelphia. However, based on his draftsmanship, he was accepted into the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts. Before entering Yale, in the early seventies, where he eventually received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Hendricks made fantastic, understated drawings of basketball hoops and court signs reminiscent of the work of both Josef Albers and Ad Reinhardt. But his main love was portraiture, his out-of-step relationship with the head abstractor who headed Yale’s art department at the time. This inconsistency led him to study photography under the tutelage of Walker Evans. Evans’ influence can be seen here and there in Hendrix’s photography—a picture of a wall clock in an antique store, taken while Hendrix was at Yale, may have been an Evans fan—but in photography, like art, Hendrix was guided by his own interests. Like seminal hip-hop-style sleuth Jameel Shabazz, Hendrix had a reverence for the attention-grabbing theatrics of city streets. In the year His surroundings. In another, from 1983, a man dressed in a white mesh T-shirt, flared jeans and smartly shaved white sneakers with a shoulder strap carrying a shiny boom box communicates his personal style and musical taste to the world. Fashion, Hendrix knew, was simply not a way to live out loud. Bobby Seale, the founder of the Black Panther Party, claimed that “Superman didn’t save any black people.” He bought a Superman t-shirt and featured a photo of himself in Sans pants. Hendricks turned to his famous painting that year, “Who’s Superman Now?” He was filled with an ironic but unmistakable sense of contempt.
Like the subjects of his paintings and his street paintings, Hendrix loved to peacock for the camera. In another self-portrait, from 1980, he wears a white dress shirt and a tie sewn under a V-neck sweater in a bright-red color that matches the packaging of his future sunglasses. The set is part prep school and part P-Funk. An iconic selfie from that year finds Hendrix in his home studio, wearing a white shirt and black fedora, with his right hand resting on his chest. Like Durer’s Christ-like self-portrait or Velázquez’s king of “Las Meninas,” here Hendrix is a self-confident master and dandy who likes to remember the moment his sister said, “You think you’re smart, just wait, one day a woman’s going to fix you.” (An article titled “Slick (self portrait)” suggests he wore the label as a badge of honor.)