Krista Thompson is Weinberg College Board of Visitors Professor and Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University. She is the author of
The Sound of Light: Reflections on Art History in the Visual Culture of Hip-Hop
This chapter considers work by artists who explore the nexus between urban popular photographic practices and visual constructions of prestige and personhood in the history of art. It analyzes Kehinde Wiley’s paintings and Black Light (2010) photographic series, which foreground issues of black visibility and technologies of light. For this series, Wiley sought black male models on the streets of urban communities across the United States using his own team of “paparazzi.” These models assume poses from paintings in art-history books. The chapter considers the work of Luis Gispert, who focuses on the “urban Baroque” aesthetic of black and Latino urban populations in his photographs and video art. It also discusses works by Hank Willis Thomas and Paul Pfeiffer, who engage photography, light, and the spectacularity of blackness in global consumer culture. It emphasizes that popular representational practices offer an optic on representational practices at the center of Western culture.