New HBO Documentary Highlights 200 Years of Iconic Black Art

Black Art: In the Absence of Light hits HBO Max on February 9th.

On Tuesday, HBO released the first trailer for Black Art: In the Absence of Light. The documentary explores Black American art and representation through Two Centuries of Black American Art, the iconic 1976 exhibition curated by David Driskell. The traveling exhibition featured over 200 works of art from 19th and 20th century Black artists. Stream the official trailer below.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. executive produced the documentary, while Thelma Golden serves as consulting producer. Sam Pollard, who directed HBO’s Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children, will direct.

The project is “a vital and illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost African-American visual artists working today,” exploring work from notable names like like Kerry James Marshall, Theaster Gates, Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald, and Carrie Mae Weems.

The exhibition collected over 200 works from 63 known artists, covering the period from 1750 to 1950. From 1976 to 1977, the exhibition displayed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and the Brooklyn Museum. At the time, it was the highest-profile exhibition of its kind at a major American museum.

Driskell, a critically-acclaimed artist in his own right, served as associate professor of art at Howard University from 1963 to 1964. For ten years, he served as chairman of the Fisk University art department. In 1976, he moved to chair the art department at the University of Maryland. In 2001, the university honored Driskell by naming a building on campus after him.

Tragically, Driskell died in April 2020 due to complications from COVID-19. A retrospective of his work, titled Icons of Nature and History, is set to open in February 2021 at the High Museum in Atlanta. The exhibit will include over 60 pieces of art from Driskell’s studio work from the 1950s to the 2000s.

Torry Threadcraft

Torry Threadcraft is a writer who covers music, sports, and culture. You can find his daily ramblings and culinary takes at @dreadcraft.

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