“Black Art: In The Absence of Light,” a new documentary film celebrates the rich legacy of black art

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February 17, 2021

Grace Ebert

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“I saw the need to raise cultural awareness by helping to revise and redefine American art,” says renowned professor, artist and curator David Driskell Black Art: In the absence of light. His words are reflected in the new HBO documentary directed by Sam Pollardwith executive producers Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Jacqueline Glover– this reveals the rich and underrated line of black art.

The chronologically structured feature film was released earlier this month and comes from Driskell’s revolutionary exhibition Two centuries of black American art, which opened at LACMA in 1979 and examined more than 200 works from 1750 by 63 artists. The defining show was shown in major museums in Dallas, Atlanta and Brooklyn and broke attendance records despite the unhappy reaction of some critics and institutions, including one two in Chicago and Detroit that completely refused his visit.

David Driskell in his studio

Two centuries of black American arthowever, had a widespread and profound impact that the documentary explores through interviews with contemporary artists. Many conversations begin with Driskell, who died last April from the coronavirus Black artPublication. The film examines a huge archive of artists such as Chicago Kerry James Marshall (previously) and Theaster Gates (previously), Next Amy Sherald (previously), Kehinde Wiley (previously), and Jordan Casteel, among other.

The documentary explores the nuanced impact of these characters’ contributions on the broader field of contemporary American art by sharing footage of their practices and responses to their work. For example, Fred Wilson reveals what’s hidden in the museum’s collections as Wiley and Sherald both share the in-depth experience of painting the Obama’s official portraits. Additional insights from the director and chief curator of the studio museum Thelma Golden, who is also a consulting producer, are woven throughout the film.

Amy Sherald is working on Michelle Obama’s portrait

Aside from galleries and museums, a lot of Black art The focus is on the value of representation and the uncovering of a narrative that has been obscured or completely discarded. In particular, the role of collectives is taken into account Sprial, which was founded in 1963 by Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis to highlight the work of black artists in the civil rights movement. While Sprial drew attention to otherwise ignored projects, it has been largely male dominated, a problem Believe ring gold speaks to how she describes being rejected by the group. Sprial only allowed one woman Emma Amos.

The final segment focuses on the importance of collectors investing in black artists, in addition to the long history of spaces like Studio museum and historically black colleges and universities. These institutions continue to nurture communities that honor the legacies of those who have come before and support those breaking new ground, and raise questions like these from Theaster Gates: “We are part of an ongoing renaissance – it has happened.” What I’m most excited about is that we have the ability to be great makers without light? “

Black art will continue to be streamed HBO max until March 17th. Educators can also download a coincident curriculum with research tools and discussion announcements as well as other activities designed to stimulate creativity.

Kerry James Marshall in his studio

#Art history

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