LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — At the foot of the stairs leading down into the main gallery space of the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville hangs a kinetic digital portrait of pop star Britney Spears in an ornately gilded frame. The video sequence “(Pop) Icon: Britney” (2010) by R. Luke DuBois cycles through still captures from music videos throughout Spears’s decades-long pop canon, isolating her face and aligning the digital fragments so that her eyes remain fixed throughout. As she gazes out at the viewer, all of her other features morph, capturing moments in a time-warp through the creative output of a meteoric and scandal-laden career.
The piece forms an ideal thesis statement for the expansive exhibition Pop Stars! Popular Culture and Contemporary Art, which explores the imagery of fantasy and celebrity culture reframed in the visual semiotics of religious iconography. Celebrities of all stripes have always enjoyed elevated status, visibility, and mass adoration to some extent or another, but as the culture ever trends toward the projection and worship of images, this status has become tantamount to pantheism.