Hank Willis Thomas just opened a new exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York this past weekend, investigating reflection with mirrored materials and darkroom printing experiments. What first grabbed us was a preview image labeled To Be Titled (Woman Biting Cop). In a timely and relevant exploration, Thomas sources protest imagery from the twentieth century, enabling viewers to face their own participation in demonstrations, willingly or not, as the reflective surfaces stare back.
The source imagery is isolated, cropped, and abstracted, so that only a gesture, or a shift in movement is captured, symbolic of swift, focused efforts to motivate change. Success by protest is often indiscernible, and yet there is still a reminder to maintain hope and band together, much like Hank’s shining, neon-lit statement, Love Over Rules, recently unveiled in a new public art installation in San Francisco. Revered by his peers, Hank Willis Thomas has ushered many other artists into the light when given the chance, continuing to surprise his attentive audience with powerful, community-focused work, the kind that can shift perspectives and promote the truth we should all be standing for. —Kristin Farr
This text was originally published in the Spring 2018 print issue.