Conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas is known for addressing and raising awareness of current social struggles such as racism and inequality in his work, much of which is presented in his first major retrospective, now on view at the Portland Art Museum. "Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…" features more than 90 pieces including photographs, sculptures, video installations, and a new piece commissioned by the museum responding to gun violence in the United States.
“The exhibition traces Thomas’s multi-decade commitment to exploring that which divides us. It also forefronts his belief that confronting and acknowledging our collective past can help move us forward in constructive and collaborative ways.”
Throughout his career, Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976) has addressed the visual systems that perpetuate inequality and bias in bold, skillfully crafted works. Through photographs, sculpture, video, and collaborative public art projects, he invites us to consider the role of popular culture in instituting discrimination and how art can raise critical awareness in the ongoing struggle for social justice and civil rights.
This fall, the Portland Art Museum is honored to present the first major retrospective of this important artist’s work. Organized by the Portland Art Museum and co-curated by Julia Dolan, Ph.D., The Minor White Curator of Photography, and Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…features more than 90 works including early photographic series, recent sculptures based on archival photographs taken during historic 20th-century events, quilts constructed from commercial sports jerseys and prison uniforms, video installations, interactive two-dimensional and time-based works, and public art projects. In addition, the Museum has supported the creation of a new and monumental flag-based work addressing lives lost to gun violence in the United States in 2018 that will serve as the entry point to the exhibition.
Following its presentation in Portland, the exhibition will travel to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (February 8 – April 20, 2020), and to the Cincinnati Art Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio (July 10 – October 11, 2020).
“Hank Willis Thomas deftly confronts the most critical issues facing us today—racism, violence, inequality, injustice—through a range of visually dynamic, approachable artworks,” said Curator of Photography Julia Dolan. “His photographs, sculptures, and interactive media installations encourage thoughtful inquiry; they challenge viewers to acknowledge histories of struggle and the damaging legacies of oppressive systems without losing sight of the hope for meaningful change. The exhibition traces Thomas’s multi-decade commitment to exploring that which divides us. It also forefronts his belief that confronting and acknowledging our collective past can help move us forward in constructive and collaborative ways.”