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Ernie Barnes, former professional football player and painter, best known for his unique figurative style of painting and widely recognized as the foremost African American artist, has died.

Barnes died Monday night at Cedars Sinai Medical Center after a brief illness, said Luz Rodriguez, his longtime personal assistant and spokesperson. He was 70.

His famous "Sugar Shack" dance scene that appeared on a Marvin Gaye album and the closing credits of the "Good Times" television show has been widely imitated and Barnes' expressive style has influenced countless aspiring artists.

Barnes' work is remarkable for his use of elongation and distortion to create the energy, power, grace, intensity and fluidity in his art. Another unique feature was painting his subject's eyes closed.

In his 1995 autobiography "From Pads to Palette," Barnes wrote,"Throughout my five seasons in the arena of professional football, I remained at the deepest level of my being - an artist."

Barnes is survived by his wife Bernie; brother James of Durham, NC; sons Michael and Sean; and daughters Deidre, Erin and Paige.

A private memorial is pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in his name to Hillsides Home For Children in Pasadena, California.


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