Conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas uses photography to explore issues of identity, history, race, and class. Inspired by the works of Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and his mother, photographer Deborah Willis, he employs language and familiar imagery to address issues that are often overlooked in our pop culture-obsessed, consumerist culture. Appropriated print advertisements from 1968—a landmark year in the Civil Rights Movement—are stripped of their context to open up questions of cultural stereotypes and the way the media perpetuates them, while in the series “Branded” he inverts the work, adding contemporary ad copy to provocative images. “In recent years I have approached my art practice assuming the role of a visual culture archaeologist,” Thomas has said. “I am interested in the ways that popular imagery informs how people perceive themselves and others around the world.”
For information on the artist, his work, and upcoming exhibits, check out the Hank Willis Thomas page at Artsy.
See also this Ourstorian post and the trailer for the film Through a Lens Darkly, which features photos and commentaries by Hank Willis Thomas.