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.”