Hank Willis Thomas: Signifying Blackness
Oct. 2 – Nov. 18, 2006

  Artist Hank Willis Thomas has gained wide recognition with his series B®ANDED, a group of images in which he digitally adds a scarred Nike logo on the head and chest of a black model. Willis Thomas works’, using the branding metaphor with its uneasy historic associations with African-American history, speaks about the extent to which commercial branding is geared to racial groups. His work raises questions about identity and commodification, acknowledging the violence within the African-American community, through a visual language of the physical body, advertising logos and marketing. The Sesnon Gallery presents a solo exhibition by Hank Willis Thomas running October 2 through November 18 which will include pieces from his “Branded” and “Un-Branded Series” as well as from his recent body of work “Winter in America.”
New York critic Isolde Brielmaier writes, “By changing something such as a product logo—something that we immediately recognize—Hank’s art is cause for pause. It provokes us to think and re-consider what we see and what many of us so readily consume. Above all, Hank’s work elicits questions and conversations about visual culture, the significance of commodities and the power of logos—or what Hank himself calls a “curious international language” that is loaded with complex ideas and meanings that catch our attention, secure social value, rouse our desires and motivate us to pay cash.”

Willis Thomas has shown nationally at venues such as The African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Smithsonian Institution, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Oakland Museum and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. He was awarded a 2006 NYFA Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts and his work will be featured in the 2006 California Biennial at The Orange County Museum of Art. His photographs have been published in numerous books and publications including: Reflections in Black: A History of African American Photographers (W.W. Norton 2000), 25 under 25: American Photographers (Power House Books 2003) and Black: A celebration of a Culture (Hylas Publishing 2004). He lives and works between New York and San Francisco.