"Black Art: In the Absence of Light" (2021 release; 86 min.) is a documentary about the state of affairs of arts by African-Americans. As the movie opens, it is 1976 and Tom Brokaw is interviewing David Driskell about a new exhibition called "Two Centuries of American Black Art" in New York. It is a key moment in the belated recognition and appreciation of "black" art in this country. The fact that the exhibition is curated by and African -American is just as remarkable. From there we get introduced to a number of past and present African-American artists in the world of painting, collages, sculpture, photography, pottery, etc., including Charles White, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Norman Lewis, Joshua Johnston, Radcliffe Bailey, and on and on.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from producer-writer-director Sam Pollard, whose excellent documentary "MLK/FBI" is still playing in theaters. Here he takes stock of the blossoming yet underexposed "black" arts world. David Driskell, who passed away last year not long after participating in this film, is the movie's unofficial MC. When asked about the negative review by the NY Times of that pivotal exhibit in 1976, Driskell simply dismisses it: "Who is that reviewer?" (As it turned out, a Caucasian male who had no prior knowledge of "black" art, of course!) Let me state upfront that I myself had no knowledge of any of these artists, not even Kehinde Wiley (who painted the official President Obama portrait) or Amy Sherald (who painted the official Michelle Obama portrait). The documentary also looks at the rising trend in collecting "black" art (check out Swizz Beatz's collection!), as well as other key points of interest (Studio Museum in Harlem, etc.). Bottom line: this documentary is insightful and informative from start to finish.
"Black Art: In the Absence of Light" premiered this week on HBO (as part of Black History Month, of course), and is now available on HBO On Demand and other streaming services. If you have any interest in the arts, and would like a primer on "black" art, I'd readily suggest you check this out, and draw your own conclusion.