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Hank Willis Thomas  New York, NY

* All images used with permission. Please do not distribute without first contacting the artist.

About Hank Willis

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.

Thomas holds a B.F.A. from New York University, New York, NY (1998) and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2004). He received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, MD and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, Portland, ME in 2017.

His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including the International Center of Photography, New York; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands.

Quick facts about Hank Willis

Solo exhibitions of his work have been featured at Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, AK; SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, and the African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA, among others.
Thomas’ work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Recommended by our guest curators

Marjorie Hodges

Co-Founder, Former Director with NC Museum of Art

"Hank is one of the most important artists working today. Through his public art installations and collaborative projects with For Freedoms and Wide Awakes 2020, he is inspiring an international wave of joyful, art activism. I am so fortunate to know him and to have worked with him on the Love Over Rules project in North Carolina."

Hank Willis appears in the following Top 10 lists


'New York'



'Neon Glow'

10 of 43 reactions displayed

"Visit the artist's site - the rest of his work in this vein makes his point much better than this one, and taken as a whole it is a very powerful statement. I'll share it with others, for sure."

"In many ways Art is defined by pushing limits, provoking thoughts out of the box, even shocking. Throughout history notable artists shattered the acceptable notions of what was suitable. In this case the negative comments attest to the above as well as to the commentators' personal sensitivities. I find the premise interesting, pointed, and necessary.I applaud the idea and its execution!"

"I love art that puts the message directly out there instead of making you stare at it thinking "What the hell?...". Very nice."

"I get what you are saying & applaud the message, find the Mastercard logo a bit cheezy. Lived in NYC for 25+ years & it is appalling how once you move out, you find everyone so pro gun rights and totally not understanding. I'm 50 yo & waiting for the day that nobody notices race or gender, and that day is approaching slowly. I assume you are African-Amer & so support your choice to explore slavery, however, I have to say, that I also look forward to the day when people understand that slavery is an abomination visited on many races over time, when more emphasis is placed on the idea that holocaust-type exterminations happened to many races & is a crime against humanity in general, & please remember that the vast majority of people in the US now did not have ancestors in the US at the time slavery took place. None of us should forget any of these things, and none of us should allow them to exist, just I hope one day it is taught as an overall philosophy that cannot be condoned and not as individual atrocities visited on one race alone. Good luck!"

"It's not in bad taste, that's a ridiculous "critique" of any art. The problem is that it's not in "bad taste" enough. Comments that it's shocking and abrasive...really? It's all pretty obvious and too...easy I'd say. It's either trying to comment on a change that needs to be made, in which case it needs to find something much more unexpected or it's trying to comment on how weak the current attempts to do that are, in which case it needs to be much more layered.Get the audience participating, no one learns/discovers if they don't have to think."

"Intense commentary and VERY well done. It moved me deeply and I hope to see more work from you."

"I agree that the message(s) in the B(r)anded series seem less than unified. Some speak strongly to the connection between sports brands and black culture, while others are unnecessarily muddled. (i.e. the Absolut ads - What does vodka have to do with slavery? Rum, I could see. Maybe this betrays my unfamiliarity with the drink...) Also, the slavery imagery seems a bit heavy-handed. Is basketball really equivalent to slavery? Does the game "keep a man down?" I think the Nike scars are very interesting as they play off the idea of the basketball player as warrior/gladiator as well as hero as well as slave/sacrifice. These are much more thought provoking that the other images to me.The Unbranded series is offensive to me as are similar images of white people (especially women) from the era. I realize it may be the artist's attention to bring this offensive nature to light. However, merely removing the brand names does not seem to go far enough in appropriating the image. It seems too much like plagiarism and does not go on to make a statement about the propaganda itself. By not pushing the image beyond its original existence, I feel the artist is only further promulgating the original message.Though I do feel this work has potential potency, I agree with others' comments about its lack of focus. It does seem more like the work of an undergrad rather than an MFA graduate from Cal Arts. Mr. Thomas, I think you would do yourself a favor to limit the number of works you exhibit on your website in order to concentrate your message. You are obviously making important work as the strong responses here show. Keep it up!"

"A work of art needs to stand by itself and be critiqued in and of itself. It will also elicit different emotions from different viewers. For me, I find a poorly conceived commentary on the effects violence has on those who survive. I feel the work would have been stronger if the artist had done a little research into what things cost. I also despise plagiarism, which this so obviously is. It's just so incredibly pedestrian.BTW, Google "mastercard priceless lawsuit." MasterCard goes after such copyright infringement with a vengeance!"

"This is very powerful imagery. You're concepts are very interesting. I understand your idea to take something we see everyday into consideration of a tragedy, however, i think your images are much more powerful than your words. I felt the bullets arranged in the shape of a wine bottle was much more thought provocative. Stick with the images. They make you think more than words."

"I really like the powerful imagery. I think there may be too many that just can't get it. If people can't see the relationships then it is not your fault; you have shown them better than I can, perhaps as well as can be done. Keep up the good work. Rock on. We like it.K"

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