Black Is the Color: A History of African American Art

Directed by Jacques Goldstein

52 minutes / Color
English; French / English subtitles
Closed Captioned
Release: 2017
Copyright: 2016

In 1969, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York mounted a major exhibit called “Harlem On My Mind.” There was just one thing wrong: the show had no work by African-American artists.

The “Harlem on My Mind” fiasco is emblematic of the barriers Black artists have faced when it comes to having their work exhibited and collected. BLACK IS THE COLOR highlights key moments in the history of African-American visual art, from Edmonia Lewis’s 1867 sculpture Forever Free, to the work of contemporary artists such as Whitfield Lovell, Kerry James Marshall, Ellen Gallagher, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

Art historians and gallery owners place the works in context—juxtaposing them with racist images of African-Americans as minstrels, for instance, and setting them against the larger social contexts of Jim Crow, WWI, the civil rights movement and the racism of the Reagan era. Meanwhile, contemporary artists discuss individual works by their forerunners and their ongoing influence.

Both comprehensive and lively, BLACK IS THE COLOR is a much-needed survey of great work by artists whose contributions were neglected by the mainstream art world for far too long.

"An incredibly in-depth investigation."Le Monde

"Retraces the lengthy journey of African-American artists to reclaim the long-caricatured image of blacks and have the power of their art acknowledged." Les Inrockuptibles

“In a movie that packs a 100-year sweep of history, the focus is razor sharp." Artblog

"Informative... One leaves the documentary with renewed awareness that recent battles over inclusion, representation, and appropriation are the results of struggles that have been going on for decades." —Hyperallergic

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