The artists featured in The Black Index―Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas―build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images. Their translations of photography challenge the medium’s long-assumed qualities of objectivity, legibility, and identification.
Using drawing, sculpture, and digital technology to transform the recorded image, these artists question our reliance on photography as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and historical understanding. The works featured here offer an alternative practice―a Black index. In the hands of these six artists, the index still serves as a finding aid for information about Black subjects, but it also challenges viewers’ desire for classification and, instead, redirects them toward alternative information.
Bridget R. Cooks is associate professor of art history and African American studies at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum. Sarah Watson is director of exhibitions and chief curator of the Hunter College Art Galleries and adjunct assistant professor at Hunter College, City University of New York in the Advanced Certificate in Curatorial Studies.
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