Murder to Excellence

10.27.2011

ART & DESIGN

Thomas received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He holds an MFA in photography and an MA in visual criticism from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. His studio is based in New York, but he currently lives in Paris as part of a one-year residency with Cite des Arts, and is in a prolific stage of his career. He is exhibiting at the Istanbul Biennial and is showing the massive photograph “Strawberry Mansion” at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. The 30-ft long work combines 72 separate photographs and is based on the block his mother grew up on in north Philadelphia. “It’s like literally walking all around the block and taking pictures of people but never crossing the street. It’s almost like a day in the life of this particular block.”

Thomas is also delving further into collaborative work with the transmedia project “Question Bridge.” The premise centers around the opinions of Black men who pose questions to other Black men in a frank discourse, broken up into thousands of short video clips. The subjects speak with candor, humor and pain, probing at issues that resonate universally, and offer insightful perspectives. Question Bridge will show on five separate screens at the Brooklyn Museum and Oakland Museum when it debuts in January. The work also incorporates a high school curriculum that is being instituted in New York, Oakland and Atlanta, with plans to expand to other cities. Thomas works with collaborators Chris Johnson, Bayete Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. “It becomes a mega log about issues that are divisive. These men talk about stuff in a way that’s incredibly unique,” says Thomas. “The other side of it that we want to try to get 1% of the black male population to redefine black male identity.”

In another large-scale collaborative video work, “In Search of the Truth, Thomas is engaged with the Cause Collective in a cartoon-like portable, inflatable “Truth Booth.” The user-generated exhibit toured Ireland over the summer, asking participants to define the truth. “Everyone says you can’t make art by committee, but I disagree,” he says.

Thomas is able to adapt his process to work in multiple disciplines. “My voice has grown through shows I’ve had at museums. The power of making art objects is exciting to me,” he says. “What I really want to do is to use the seductive language of advertising to talk about much greater issues.” He intends to probe deeper into the nature of power and persuasion as his work evolves. “I want my client to be my audience and my collectors, not a single corporation that says ignore the facts. There isn’t room for self-critique in advertising.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AJ6SBBAQVZSGLX6SCDMJGQOJ44 Jared

    Powerful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/78diamond Tammie Soto

    I AM ORIGINALLY FROM WASHINGTON DC MY CHILDREN ARE FROM DIFFERENT RACES AND WHEN I SAW THIS IT HURT MY HEART THAT OTHERS IN THE COUNTRY DO NOT RECOGNIZE THE EFFECT AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN AND WOMAN HAVE ON AMERICA. I AM PROUD AS AN ITALIAN CAUCASIAN WOMAN WITH MIXED CHILDREN TO ALLOW THEM THIS EXPERIENCE AT THIS TIME BECAUSE THEY WILL NEVER SEE IT AGAIN BECAUSE OTHER AMERICANS WANT TO STOP IT . YES I AGREE THIS WAS VERY POWERFUL AND I THINK THAT THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY IS VERY POWERFUL AND CAN BE PULLED OUT OF PRISONS AND UNEMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IF AMERICA WILL JUST LET IT HAPPEN AND LET GO OF THIS WHOLE RACE WAR THAT IS STILL GOING ON THAT SO MANY ARE BLIND TO OR ARE TOO AFRAID TO ADMIT

  • http://spiritsentient.com JasonFonceca

    Wow. Epic art, powerful statements. I’d love to discuss it with Hank Willis Thomas personally, because his parallels between how people were treated and the past, and how they’re treated now are pretty provocative.

    How does personal choice, personal freedom, and law of attraction fit in?

  • http://twitter.com/normysgranchild Habitual Retweeter

    Wow!!! This is amazing. It’s such a powerful representation of the NFL, NBA and especially college football. Even though the professional athletes get paid well, I agree with Hank Willis Thomas that that comes at a cost – of their freedom of speech, to speak their minds as men. Case in point, when the Troy Davis execution was looming…not ONE of the professional athletes I follow on Twitter (and I follow a lot of the big ones) said a word about it!!!

    NBA players can be traded at the drop of a hat, with no regard for the roots and bonds that they’ve created in a particular community. They and their family are expected to move across country the very next day after a trade…modern day slave TRADE”? Yes they’re rewarded handsomely, but they better know their place! Remember the huge stink that was created when Lebron decided to CHOOSE where he wanted to go???

    NFL players are kept on a leash by good ole Goodell… don’t dare say anything out of pocket and disagree with him, because he is quick to pull that fine out! I am in no way making excuses for bad behaviour by some of our professional athletes, but the first thing some people say when black athletes mess up, is “take away their money”, as if these men aren’t working hard on the field and putting their bodies at risk for our entertainment.

    Let’s not even talk about college ball…these schools make BILLIONS of dollars off of these kids, and refuse to pay them a stipend to make ends meet… or help their families, or even provide for their kids!! It’s a huge form of control!

    So thank you for posting this! Will be sharing it. Hank Willis Thomas has illustrated beautifully what we think about, but many of us…especially those of us with influential voices, don’t say anything about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gigi-Greene/100001257169801 Gigi Greene

    I LIKE THAT JAYZ IM LAUGHING MY ASS OFF……………………………..THATS RIGHT TELL THEM SHAWM BE A MANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN………………….

  • http://twitter.com/lanarosandic Lana Rosandic

    Any jobs for me?

  • http://twitter.com/lanarosandic Lana Rosandic

    would like to join…

  • http://twitter.com/iYashMusic Steven Odige

    makes u think

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