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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.

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.

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.

Remembering David Driskell

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

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Inspired by the late David Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black Art,” visit our gallery highlighting some of the artists featured in the documentary, along with institutions that are elevating Black art.


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