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Baltimore Museum of Art Shows Recent Work by Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas. Detail, I AM A MAN. 2009. Courtesy of Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

BALTIMORE, MD.- Discover the powerful work of multimedia artist Hank Willis Thomas in the BMA’s West Wing for Contemporary Art from July 29 through November 29, 2009. This acclaimed African-American artist is participating in the Artist-in-Residence Program at The Johns Hopkins University Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Africana Studies during the fall 2009 semester. Thomas is a rising star in the art world, with works featured in numerous exhibitions at national and international venues, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Prague Contemporary Art Festival.

The exhibition features 10 examples of Thomas’ recent work exploring racial stereotypes and black identity in America. He first gained wide recognition for his provocative B®ANDED series, which raised questions about visual culture, the power of logos, and media representation of African Americans. An example from this series is Hang Time Circa 1923 (2008), which shows the Jumpman logo from Nike’s Air Jordan ad campaigns appropriated to create an image about lynching. The artist’s deeply personal video, Winter in America (2005), features G.I. Joe toy action figures re-enacting the senseless murder of his beloved cousin, showing how the seeds of violence are sown through play and also the all-too-common killings of young black men by their peers. In recent works such as the I Am A Man series of images (2009), Thomas explores the power of language as a means of questioning concepts of racial identity.

During his residency this fall, Thomas will participate in a series of lectures and workshops on JHU’s Homewood campus, as well as an artist’s conversation at the BMA on November 12, 2009.

Thomas is the second artist to be selected for this residency. Both he and the first artist, Renee Stout, were selected by an advisory committee of art historians and scholars that included Jay Fisher, BMA Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, who also chose the works for the exhibition; Ben Vinson, Director of Center for Africana Studies; and two JHU alumni: Leslie King-Hammond, Graduate Dean Emeritus and Founding Director of the Center for Race and Culture at Maryland Institute College of Art, and Lowery Stokes-Sims, The Charles Bronfman Curator of the Museum of Art & Design in New York City. This is the first time Thomas’ work is being shown in Baltimore.

Thomas was born in New Jersey in 1976 and raised in New York. He received his BFA in Photography from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and an MFA in Photography and an MA in Visual Criticism from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Another important influence is his mother, Deborah Willis, a well known scholar, curator, and photographer with whom Thomas has collaborated on several exhibition projects. Thomas is currently based in New York and the San Francisco Bay area.

Baltimore Museum of Art | African-American | artist | Johns Hopkins University | Hank Willis Thomas |

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