Black art will get the celebration it deserves in upcoming documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light, A Celebration of African American Artists, coming to HBO Feb. 9.
Directed by Sam Pollard, executive produced by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. with Thelma Golden as consulting producer, the documentary will feature a plethora of Black artists and their interpretations of Black life. The basis of the film also draws from 1976 exhibit “Two Centuries of Black American Art” by Black American artist and scholar David Driskell. The exhibit made its debut at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and featured over 200 works of art by 63 artists.
The artists highlighted in the film include Driskell, who died last year, as well as Radcliffe Bailey, Sanford Biggers, Jordan Casteel, Theaster Gates, Lyle Ashton Harris, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Richard Mayhew, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Amy Sherald, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, and Fred Wilson.
“David Driskell’s monumental exhibit achieved two great things. It simultaneously consolidated the history of the canon of African American artists, and it launched a revolution in Black representation as well,” said Gates. “And it is David’s genius, his double-contribution to the history of African American Art—recording its past in stunning detail and thereby contributing enormously to the astonishingly creative and productive cultural moment we are in—that we celebrate in this film.”
“It has been deeply inspiring to see the recent recognition of Black artists and art made by artists of African descent on a global scale,” said Golden. “Much like the long lineage of artists who came before them, today’s Black artists have worked to envision their place in the art world, and in the process, their place in a historically exclusionary canon—their indelible contributions to the fabric of American culture are a result of both their mastery and the very singular nature of their work. ‘Black Art: In the Absence of Light’ introduces an art history through the lens of Blackness, foregrounding the definitive importance of representation and its scholarship, and in so doing, inspiring generations to come.”
Pollard also added that working on the film was “a wonderful opportunity” to work with “some of the most talented African American artists of the 21st century.”
“Their work continues the long legacy and contribution of so many African American artists from the last century who were given their due in David Driskell’s history-making exhibit,” Pollard added. “What a lasting and impactful experience for me as a filmmaker.”