Hank Willis Thomas
126, Artist–run Gallery, Galway
15 July – 15 August 2009
126 is pleased to present It’s About Time, Hank Willis Thomas’s first solo exhibition in Europe. The exhibition follows his solo show at Jack Shainman Gallery (New York) this spring and the publication of his first monograph Pitch Blackness by The Aperture Foundation last fall. Employing visual language and materials commonly used in mass-media Thomas presents a range of works from the last eight years in this mini-retrospective. Works range from vinyl and cardboard cutouts to video and manipulated photo-based works. Together they trace African-American history through visual culture in an attempt to dissect, reinterpret, and re-imagine iconic moments from the “black past” and to investigate the complexity of race in the United States in the 21st century. Thomas appropriates imagery and language from a variety of sources including posters announcing slaves for sale, as well as books, magazines, and advertisements. GI Joe, Air Jordan and Johnny Walker are points of reference that appear in the work. The show features an installation inspired by the portrayal of African-American women in advertising and large-scale reproductions of contemporary ads juxtaposed with strikingly similar examples from the past, both of which explore expressions of cultural exploitation by media. Also included are the collaborative videos Winter in America made with Kambui Olujimi about a tragic murder in Philadelphia, and Along the Way a video mosaic about the city of Oakland created by the public arts group Cause Collective of which Thomas is a member.
Hank Willis Thomas has exhibited his work at venues such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA. He was included in the recent exhibition, “After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy”, at the High Museum, Atlanta, GA; in Frequency at The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2005; and in the 2006 California Biennial at The Orange County Museum of Art. His work is featured in several public collections including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the International Center of Photography in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. His photographs have been published in numerous books and publications including: Reflections in Black: A History of African American Photographers (W.W. Norton 2000), 25 under 25: American Photographers (Power House Books 2003) and Black: A celebration of a Culture (Hylas Publishing 2004).