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About Hank

HANK WILLIS THOMAS, winner of the first ever Aperture West Book Prize for his monograph Pitch Blackness (November, 2008), 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 the California College of the Arts, San Francisco.

His work was featured in the exhibition and accompanying catalog, 25 under 25: Up-and-Coming American. He has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad, including the Studio Museum in Harlem; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Texas; Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Jamaica, New York; Artists Space, New York; and National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. among others.

To find out more, visit Hank's website.

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Hank Willis Thomas

The Liberation of T.O. I'm not goin back ta' work for massa in dat' darn field, 2003/2005, Lightjet Print.

Artwork, The Liberation of T.O. by Hank Willis Thomas

© Hank Willis Thomas

The original image was by Charlie White. This image is part of a bigger series called Unbranded. Below is Thomas’s description of the project.

UNBRANDED is a series of images taken from magazine advertisements targeting a black audience or featuring black subjects, which I digitally manipulated and appropriated.  In this work-in-progress project that will ultimately span from 1969 through the present, I have removed all aspects of the advertising information, e.g., text, logos, in order to reveal what’ being sold.  Nothing more has been altered.  I believe that in part, advertising’s success rests on its ability to reinforce generalizations around race, gender and ethnicity which can be entertaining, sometimes true, and sometimes horrifying, but which at a core level are a reflection of the way a culture views itself or its aspirations.  By “unbranding” advertisements I can literally expose what Roland Barthes refers to as “what-goes-without-saying” in ads, and hopefully encourage viewers to look harder and think deeper about the empire of signs that have become second nature to our experience of life in the modern world.





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