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Hank Willis Thomas Artist Talk (Video)

On March 12, 2013, Aperture Foundation, in collaboration with the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons the New School for Design, was pleased to present an artist talk with Hank Willis Thomas, a photo-conceptual artist working with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. Appropriation and juxtaposition are two of many strategies with which Thomas orchestrates his interdisciplinary practice. In this video excerpt, Thomas discusses his series Branded (2011), which adopts a commercial vernacular to decry the commodification of African-Americans, both in contemporary sports and in the historical slave trade. A basketball player dunks into a noose, for example, or a Nike swoosh is branded onto a man’s head. Thomas’s images confront our difficult history through the universal legibility of advertising.

In Part 2, Thomas discusses his series Unbranded (2008), which uses advertisements lifted from the pages African-American-interest magazines; Thomas subtly reworks them, removing key text, logos, and/or products. The skeletal remains betray immediately the subliminal prejudice common throughout consumer culture.

In 2008 Aperture published Pitch Blackness, Hank Willis Thomas’s first monograph, which includes selections from his series Unbranded (2008), and several others.