Hank Willis Thomas has made it his mission to "not make sense out of things we think make sense," challenging our perceptions of identity, history, and symbols. In his 99U talk, Thomas shares what he’s learned from creating his provocative body of work, including the repurposing of iconic brand imagery as a commentary on race and class, particularly in regard to African-American males.
Among the work he shares with us the "Truth Booth," an inflatable confession booth that he toured around the world asking locals to complete the sentence “The Truth is…” Or the Question Bridge, where African-American men of all ages and walks of life ask and answer each other's questions via online video. "Whoever is holding the frame affects what we see," says Thomas. "It can never actually tell the whole truth. There are more things happening outside of the frame of a camera than within it."
About Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. Thomas’ monograph, Pitch Blackness, was published by Aperture in 2008. He has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including, Galerie Anne De Villepoix in Paris, Annarumma 404 in Milan, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, among others. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art New York, The Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The High Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
His collaborative projects have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival and installed publicly at the Oakland International Airport, The Birmingham International Airport, The Oakland Museum of California and the University of California, San Francisco. Recent notable exhibitions include Hank Willis Thomas at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Strange Fruit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Picture Windows: Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Sanford Biggers at the International Center for Photography, and the Istanbul Biennial. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Goodman Gallery in South Africa.