BAHM: 2.20.17 Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist based in New York. He was born in 1976 in New Jersey to parents, Deborah Willis, an NYU professor and leading historian and curator of African American photography, and Hank Thomas a jazz musician and film producer. He attended Tisch School of the Arts where he received a BFA in Photography in 1998 and later an MFA/MA in Photography and Visual and Critical Studies form CCA, San Francisco in 2004. Thomas is a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York and co-founder of For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC, and a DuBois Institute Fellow at Harvard University. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and Goodman Gallery in South Africa. There are currently two exhibits of his work at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, GA, Freedom Isn’t Always Beautiful, and a site-specific installation, Blind Memory, through August 20, 2017. He will be giving a lecture at the SCAD Museum of Art on February 22 at 2pm.
Thomas’ site-specific installation, Blind Memory, features walls of agricultural commodities common to the region: tobacco, cotton, rice and indigo, lining the windows of the “jewel box” façade of the museum. This installation is accompanied by archival documents and symbols that delve into the museum’s history as a railway depot and its connection to the agricultural and slave economy of the South. The commodities on display refer to a two-day span in March of 1857 known as the “Weeping Period,” in which 436 men, women and children were auctioned at a racetrack, the largest sale of human beings in the history of the country. The installation is accompanied by a collection of works from 2003 to the present, Freedom Isn’t Always Free, at the Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies. This exhibit explores Thomas’s investigation into racial identity through mass media, advertisement, sports and the language of social movements.
Art News Article: 'Advertising is fueled by prejudice' An Hour with Hank Willis Thomas