Fall 2015 Talks : Hank Willis Thomas

About the Talk

Brooklyn-based artist Hank Willis Thomas’s conceptually-based practice addresses the relationships between identity, media, and popular culture through sculpture, installation, photography, and performance. Often appropriating and recontextualizing common symbols, objects, and brands, Thomas’ work points to the assumptions and biases that frame our experience of public space, others, and ourselves. Coinciding with both the inclusion of Thomas’ sculpture Liberty in Public Art Fund’s group exhibition Image Objects in City Hall Park and his solo show, The Truth is I See You in Downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, the artist will speak about his repeated engagement with the public and outdoor space.

For The Truth is I See You, speech bubbles of various shapes feature texts in different languages and reveal lines of a poem written by Thomas and collaborator Ryan Alexiev. Accompanying this installation will be a pop-up presentation of In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth), a collaboration between the artist, Alexiev, and Jim Ricks of the Cause Collective. This mobile interactive video recording booth has previously been installed in locales such as South Africa, Afghanistan, and Chicago.

Public Art Fund Talks at The New School are organized by the Public Art Fund in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School.

This program is made possible in part by Con Edison and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.



The New School

The 66 West 12th Street Auditorium

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Media Gallery

About the Artist

Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976, Plainfield, New Jersey) lives and works in New York City. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Ford Lauderdale (2015), the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa (2014), the International Center for Photography, New York (2013), and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2011). His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Museum of Art and Design, and MoMA PS1, all in New York. In 2011, he participated in the Venice Biennale and the Istanbul Biennial. His work is held in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Brooklyn Museum. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana Studies from New York University in 1998, and in 2004 an MA in Visual Criticism as well as an MFA in Photography, from the California College of the Arts. Thomas is represented by Galerie Anne de Villepoix in Paris, Galerie Henrik Springmann in Düsseldorf, Germany, the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.

About the Series: Public Context, Private Meaning

The public realm offers unique possibilities to consider how personal experiences with artworks intersect with their broader social and cultural contexts. The Fall 2015 Public Art Fund Talks at The New School series brings together three artists who address this relationship in different ways. Jeppe Hein’s interactive and experiential public sculptures invite audiences to actively engage with the work. Intimate bench sculptures become private spaces where a pair of friends might perch, while large labyrinths of mirrors and water sculptures encourage the public to participate as a group. Hank Willis Thomas mines popular culture to expose dominant power structures and reveal the subjective nature of how we see and understand the world around us. His investigation of the nature of truth across cultures connects the personal with our broader public experience. Fiona Banner’s works often present a dual experience, using recognizable forms as representations of a more private narrative based on a particular subject of research. While the nature of looking at all art is inherently subjective, public space provides a unique context for examining the personal experience of art in connection with the broader cultural landscape.