“The most revolutionary thing a person can do is be open to change.” - Hank Willis Thomas
Well known as a conceptual artist and activist, Hank Willis Thomas’s (b. 1976, Plainfield, NJ) practice focuses on themes relating to commodity, identity, media, and popular culture. Though Thomas uses a range of media, his central conceptual tool is photographic, namely, he employs the imagery of popular visual and consumer culture to take on urgent contemporary questions: What is the role of art for civic life? How does visual culture create narratives that shape our notion of who counts in society?
Hank Willis Thomas: LOVERULES - From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, spans over 20 years of Thomas’s work—it is one of the largest presentations of the artist’s long-standing career. While not intended as a comprehensive survey, it touches on his most significant practices and themes: the impact of corporate branding, the construction of gender and race, and the struggle for liberty and equality. Individual artworks include photography, print, mixed-media, neon, and sculpture. The exhibition also highlights several series, including Branded and Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America. In the latter, Thomas strips iconic images drawn from the language of advertising of their text and product, thus highlighting the consistently dehumanizing strategies of corporate media, the commodification of African American identity, and the ways in which dominant cultural tropes shape notions of race and race relations.
Critical awareness, civic engagement, inclusive collaboration, and empathy are among the core invitations of Thomas’s work. Through the mining and reframing of iconic imagery and texts, Thomas connects historical moments of resistance to our lives today. With incisive clarity, he asks us to see and challenge systems of inequality while affirming our shared humanity to shape a better future.