A young black individual stares directly into the camera. Their torso is bare, and a red bandanna covers half of their face. The Villain, one of the hauntingly gorgeous photographs by John Edmonds displayed at this year’s Whitney Biennial, grapples with an America that stereotypes a black body as menacing. His work offers unflinching commentary on race, gender, sexuality and faith, intimately juxtaposing modern clothing like hoodies and do-rags with African artifacts, as both a celebration of black culture and a resistance to oppression. “I am always working with layers of history through the symbolic,” says Edmonds, 30, over email. This summer, Edmonds was the first to receive the Brooklyn Museum’s UOVO Prize, which will recognize promising emerging artists. He will have a solo show at the museum in 2020. —Rachel E. Greenspan
Correction, Nov. 14
The original version of this story misgendered a model in one of John Edmonds' photographs. They identify as nonbinary, not male.