Worldwide many people know about Ernie Barnes because of his famous painting entitled “Sugar Shack”. This painting was displayed on the popular sitcom “Good Times” and was also utilized as an album cover for the late but great Marvin Gaye’s album “I Want You”. This painting, however, was created in the early 1970’s but never received any national or international exposure until the “Good Times” television series started showcasing it at the end of each episode and Marvin Gaye album exposed this phenomenal piece of artwork to a mainstream audience.
“Sugar Shack” is known for playing a major part in the creation of the “Black Romantic” genre of art. This genre is often considered the “visual art equivalent of the Chittlin’ Circuit”. Ernie Barnes even stated in a rare interview from 2008 that “The painting transmits rhythm so the experience is re-created in the person viewing it. It shows that African-Americans utilize rhythm as a way of resolving physical tension.”
Also, please note that the version displayed on Marvin Gaye’s album cover, and the version of “Sugar Shack” being sold today is actually not the original version of the painting. This version of “Sugar Shack” was painted in 1976 specifically for Marvin Gaye’s album. Ernie Barnes changed the painting by adding banners that promoted Marvin Gaye’s singles from the album. On the original version of the painting, Barnes included his hometown Durham, North Carolina’s radio station WSRC on a banner.
As one of the most recognized pieces of African American Art, “Sugar Shack” went a long way to helping establish Ernie Barnes as one of the most famous African American artists of his time. Ernie was often praised for his ability to “freeze-frame an emotion”. It was this talent that led to him being labeled as a master of the “analyzed moment”.
View our: Ernie Barnes Art Gallery