History Doesn’t Laugh is Hank Willis Thomas’s first solo exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. The show highlights the artist’s interest in representing photographic ideas through unconventional materials.
For this exhibition, he scoured numerous publications and archives looking for graphics, images and audio that exemplify, through popular culture, South Africa’s recent history. The result is a fascinating combination of installations, objects, and prints that present the visual complexities of the not so distant past.
Thomas is debuting a series of photo-derived sculptures cast in aluminum, silicone and bronze that reframe the original image by focusing on the impact of hand gestures. In his more familiar style, he appropriates graphically striking political buttons and increases them in size to large-scale wall hangings. The show also includes screen-printed images from various magazines re-contextualised in a manner that exaggerates the hyper-reality of the time in which they were originally produced.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He 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 the MFA programs at Maryland Institute College of Art and has lectured at Yale University, Princeton University and the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris. His work has been featured in several publications including 25 under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers (CDS, 2003), as well as his monograph Pitch Blackness (Aperture, 2008). He received a new media fellowship through the Tribeca Film Institute and was a 2011 fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University. He has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad and his work is in numerous collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum and Museum of Modern Art. His collaborative projects have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival and installed publically at the Oakland International Airport.