Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas first exhibited at Socrates Sculpture Park in 2006 as part of the 2006 Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition. Ten years later he participated in LANDMARK, the Park’s 30th Anniversary exhibition in 2016. See the artworks from both exhibitions below.
Hank Willis Thomas, From Cain’t See in the Morning Till Cain’t See at Night (from Strange Fruit), 2011. Rendering of Broadway Billboard 2016. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Willis Thomas’s striking photograph From Cain’t See in the Morning Till Cain’t See at Night (from Strange Fruit), 2012 is featured at the exhibition’s entrance as part of the park’s Broadway Billboard series. It depicts two black men facing each other: a football player in a three point stance and a laborer crouching among cotton plants, their faces obscured by helmet and straw hat. One may imagine that history is the line that divides the ground on which they stand, as cotton field abuts playing field. Viewers are left to consider the image’s ambiguous implications about the relationship between land, labor, and American history and culture. The billboard location highlights Hank Willis Thomas’s broader dialogue about depictions of the black male body in mass media and advertising in particular, and their social and political ramifications. The threshold of the park is an apt location for the work of this alumnus of the Socrates Emerging Artist Fellowship as it addresses how public images mold inner lives.
It’s about time is a functioning sundial that examines the changing meaning of the “Black Power fist” here depicted in an Armani suit wearing a Gucci watch. The artist is exploring the legacy of the 1960s struggle for economic, civic and social equality and how it has been translated by the Me, X and Y generations.