Hank Willis Thomas (b.1976, USA) often incorporates recognizable icons into his work, many from well-known advertising and branding campaigns. Thomas sees cultural disconnects everywhere in day-to-day living particularly as it relates to race (a figment of our imagination). In a 2013 review by Holland Cotter in the New York Times, “[Hank] has been particularly astute in examining the workings of what W. E. B. Du Bois called double consciousness, the condition in which people see themselves reflected, often negatively, in the view of others and end up molding their lives to confirm that view.” In this way, his work has gone beyond just making art, to examining and exposing deeper divides in our culture. During this evening conversation, artist Hank Willis Thomas, curator Christine Eyene and Open Society President Patrick Gaspard review the artist’s work in light of evolving political contexts.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), the Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.
Christine Eyene is an art historian, critic and curator. She is a Research Fellow in Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire where she collaborates to Making Histories Visible, an interdisciplinary visual arts project based at UCLan’s Centre for Contemporary Art, led by Professor Lubaina Himid. Her areas of research and curatorial practice range from contemporary African and Diaspora arts, Black British arts, gendered art discourses, to non-object-based art practices notably sound art.
Patrick Gaspard is president of the Open Society Foundations. He joined the Foundations as vice president in 2017. Prior to joining Open Society, Gaspard served as the U.S. ambassador to South Africa from 2013 to 2016. Gaspard has extensive experience in presidential and congressional campaigns. Most recently, he served as a senior aide to President Barack Obama, as the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and as an assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Political Affairs.
This event is made possible thanks to the support of:
Embassy of the United States in Belgium
Open Society European Policy Institute
Galerie Maruani Mercier
Coopération belge au développement