Hank Willis Thomas / All Things Being Equal... / 2010
Goodman Gallery Cape proudly presents All Things Being Equal…, the first solo exhibition in South Africa by African-American photo conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas. Based in New York, Thomas works primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture.
Employing the visual language and terminology of mass media, and appropriating symbols and images from popular culture, Hank Willis Thomas’ work seeks to question and subvert established definitions and positions with regards to personal identity and the narrative of race. It is concerned with history and identity, with the way race and ‘blackness’ has not only been informed but deliberately shaped and constructed by various forces – first through colonialism and slavery, and more recently through mass media and advertising – and reminds us of the financial and economic stakes that have always been involved in representations of race.
In Unbranded, a previous body of work, Thomas used images from advertisements targeting African Americans between 1968 and the present, digitally removing all products and logos from the images in order to unearth the ways in which black American identity is produced and marketed in popular culture, and to challenge viewers to ask what’s really being sold.
His B®anded series extends his interest in visual representations of race to the male African-American body, this time featuring works that deliberately use and manipulate corporate signs and logos to trace the connections between historical and contemporary commodifications of the black male body, and to examine the ways it has been employed in the service of creating wealth.
All Things Being Equal… brings together recent works by the artist that explore the legacy of slavery and colonialism, segregation and apartheid, employing subversive visual strategies to disrupt superficial notions of likeness and to find value in particularity rather than comparison.
Assuming the principle that race and blackness are radically contingent socio-cultural constructs, the exhibition addresses the idea of a particular local black experience and attempts to excavate meaning in the differences between South African and African-American blackness.
Hank Willis Thomas received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and his MFA in photography, along with an MA in visual criticism, from California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. Thomas has acted as a visiting professor at CCA and in the MFA programs at Maryland Institute College of Art and ICP/Bard and has lectured at Yale University, Princeton University, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. His work has been featured in many publications including Reflections in Black (Norton, 2000) 25 under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers (CDS, 2003), 30 Americans (RFC, 2008). Thomas’ monograph, Pitch Blackness, was published by Aperture in 2008. He received a new media fellowship through the Tribeca Film Institute and was an artist in residence at John Hopkins University. He has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad including Galerie Anne De Villepoix in Paris, the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.
Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, The High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Museum of Fine Art in Houston. His collaborative projects have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival and installed publicly at the Oakland International Airport, The Oakland Museum of California and the University of California, San Francisco. Recent exhibitions include Dress Codes: The International Center for Photography’s Triennial of Photography and Video, Greater New York at P.S. 1/MoMa, Contact Toronto Photography Festival and Houston Fotofest.
Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City.