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Inspired by the late David Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” the documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light offers an illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost Black visual artists working today. 

Directed by Sam Pollard (Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children) the film shines a light on the extraordinary impact of Driskell’s exhibit on generations of Black artists who have staked a claim on their rightful place within the 21st-Century art world. Interweaving insights and context from scholars and historians, along with interviews from a new generation of working African American curators and artists including Theaster Gates, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald and Carrie Mae Weems, the documentary is a look at the Contributions of Black American artists in today’s contemporary art world.

Black Art: In the Absence of Light is produced and directed by Sam Pollard; produced by Daphne McWilliams; cinematography, Henry Adebonojo; editing, Steven Wechsler; original music, Kathryn Bostic. Executive producers, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Jacqueline Glover; consulting producer, Thelma Golden.

Works featured in documentary key art:
  • Jordan Casteel “Jireh”
  • Jordan Casteel “Medinilla, Wanda, and Annelise”
  • Amy Sherald “Pythagor”
  • Kara Walker “The Battle of Atlanta”
  • Kara Walker “Insurrection!”
  • David Driskell “African Women, Windows” (Courtesy of the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park)
  • Kerry James Marshall “Untitled”
  • Kerry James Marshall “Many Mansions”
  • Kerry James Marshall “Untitled/ Club Couple”
  • Amy Sherald “She had an inside and outside now suddenly she knew how not to mix them”
  • Kerry James Marshall “Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self”

Black Art School

Further your education on the artists and topics explored in the documentary with a custom curriculum, then turn inspiration into expression with a helpful appendix of art activities.

The Curriculum

Tools to help you reflect on the film, research further, and apply your knowledge.

Art-Making Activities

Tap into your creative instincts and develop your own unique style.

CLIP1:54
The Power of An Image

Artist Amy Sherald’s official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama became a symbol for the power of representation.

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EXTRA5:00
Culture Closeup

Artist Jordan Casteel and curator Kimberly Drew discuss the significance of Black art, Black artists in American culture and the importance of Sam Pollard’s HBO documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light.

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EXTRA3:08
Remembering David Driskell

Take a look at the late David Driskell's impact on the art world.

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