New York-based artist Hank Willis Thomas explores issues of identity, media, race, and popular culture through sculptures, photographs, and text-based works. He often appropriates recognizable imagery from advertisements and branding campaigns in order to question the ways in which commercial media distorts the ways in which audiences see themselves and each other.
As the Public Art Fund, NY states, “Liberty (2015) is a life-size, candy-coated bronze sculpture derived from a 1986 found photograph of a Harlem Globetrotter. He spins a basketball on his finger, in the likeness of the Statue of Liberty, which is featured in the background of the image. In a digital era where electronic devices mediate our viewing experiences, the three-dimensional arm, appropriated from the photograph, invites the viewer to consider the framing and context of the images that surround us.”
Thomas received a BFA in Photography and Africana Studies from NYU in 1998, his MFA in Photography, and an MA in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2004. His work has been featured in several publications including 25 under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers (CDS, 2003), 30 Americans (RFC, 2008) as well as his monograph Pitch Blackness (Aperture, 2008). He has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the world. Thomas' work is in numerous public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. His collaborative projects have been supported by the Tribeca Film Institute, Open Society Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival.