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Ernie Barnes captured life.

Ernie Barnes was an African American artist, famous for his paintings that captured everyday life, especially within the African American community. He was born on July 15, 1938, in Durham, North Carolina, and passed away on April 27, 2009. His artistic career was marked by a passion for representing the life, culture, and experiences of the African American population.

The period in which Ernie Barnes lived was characterized by significant social changes in the United States. He grew up during a time when racial segregation was still prevalent in many parts of the country. Civil rights were at the forefront of discussions, with movements such as the March on Washington in 1963 and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, aimed at ending racial discrimination.

Ernie Barnes' artistic style is often described as "neo-mannerist," characterized by elongated forms and fluid movements. He was particularly skilled at capturing movement and emotional expression in his paintings. His works often depict scenes from everyday life in African-American neighborhoods, highlighting the beauty, strength, and resilience of the black community.

One of his most famous works is "The Sugar Shack," depicting a lively dance scene. This painting became iconic and was used as the cover art for the album "Love's Theme" by the musical group Love Unlimited Orchestra.

During the years when Ernie Barnes emerged as an artist (the 1960s and 1970s), the United States underwent significant social and political changes. The struggle for civil rights, the Vietnam War, the hippie movement, and the Black Power movement were central concerns. These events influenced not only daily life but also art and culture, with many artists engaging politically through their work.

Ernie Barnes' contribution to visual art was significant as he captured and celebrated African American life and culture at a time when positive representation of this community was often limited. His paintings contributed to opening discussions about the diversity, strength, and beauty of African American experiences.

Photo: The New York Times. Art WUNC.

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