Conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas uses photography to explore issues of identity, history, race, and class. Inspired by the works of Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and his mother, photographer Deborah Willis, he employs language and familiar imagery to address issues that are often overlooked in our pop culture-obsessed, consumerist culture. Appropriated print advertisements from 1968—a landmark year in the Civil Rights Movement—are stripped of their context to open up questions of cultural stereotypes and the way the media perpetuates them.
Born on March 17, 1976 in Plainfield, NJ, Thomas went on study at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he received a BFA in photography and Africana studies, later receiving his MFA in photography from the California College of the Arts in Oakland. His work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, among others, and he has been a professor at MFA programs at Yale University and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Thomas lives and works in New York, NY.