Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… highlights the work of an artist devoted to reframing perspectives on difficult issues central to American history and the representation of race and the politics of visual culture. This timely major exhibition will be the artist’s first comprehensive survey, exploring how Thomas points to the roles that images, brands, and popular icons play in perpetuating stereotypes as well as upending dominant culture narratives.
The exhibition focuses on how Thomas reframes popular, commercial, and media images and creates participatory opportunities to foster knowledge and embrace new viewpoints. Collaboration is central to Thomas’ artistic practice; works like In Search of the Truth (Truth Booth), which the Museum hosted in 2016, and a new project by Thomas’s artist-run political action committee For Freedoms will take his work into direct contact with Portlanders in 2018.
The Museum is co-publishing a catalog with the Aperture Foundation including multiple contextualizing essays and an interview with the artist. Planned community partnerships in conjunction with All Things Being Equal… include the continuation of a multi-year engagement with the Museum of Impact, the world’s first mobile social justice museum; collaboration with King School Museum of Contemporary Art and other Portland-area public schools; and the establishment of an interdisciplinary library that invites artists, writers, musicians, educators, and activists to contribute all types of media. Public programs will include a free public lecture by Thomas; educator workshops; curatorial conversations; and the Portland Art Museum’s quarterly Miller Family Community Free Day.
After its debut in Portland in Fall 2019, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… will travel to additional museums across the United States in 2020.
Whether or not you go, the exhibition catalog, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal, presents a survey of the artist’s prolific and extraordinary interdisciplinary career, incorporating all aspects of his art, with a particular focus on the work’s relationship to the photographic image and to issues of representation and perception. At the core of his practice, is his ability to parse and critically dissect the flow of images that comprises American culture, and to do so with particular attention to race, gender, and cultural identity. Other powerful themes include the commodification of identity through popular media, sports, and advertising. In the ten years since his first publication, Pitch Blackness, Thomas has established himself as a significant voice in contemporary art, equally at home with collaborative, trans-media projects such as Question Bridge, Philly Block, and For Freedoms as he is with high-profile, international solo exhibitions. This extensive presentation of his work contextualizes the material with incisive essays from Portland Art Museum curators Julia Dolan and Sara Krajewski and art historian Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, and an in-depth interview between Dr. Kellie Jones and the artist that elaborates on Thomas’s influences and inspirations.
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