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Hank Willis Thomas – ARTnews.com

Hank Willis Thomas, the latest guest editor Problem decider of the ARTnews, is an artist whose scope is so wide that it is difficult to summarize easily. He makes art using a variety of media (photography, sculpture, collage) and materials (recent work renders demonstrations as prints on reflective vinyl). From the very beginning of his career, he inverted recognizable advertising and branding images and messages, using it to direct viewers’ attention to unsettling aspects of the world. we are living. A good example is his photo Priceless number 1 from 2004, a fake Mastercard ad with these words ran across a funeral image of cousin Songha Willis Thomas: “3-piece suit: $250; new socks: $2; 9mm pistol: $80; gold chain: $400; ammo ¢ 60; Choose the perfect coffin for your son: priceless. ”

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A row of semi-translucent mannequins

[See the 2022 Deciders.]

Willis Thomas’ practice extends beyond the art world, even in the form of a T-shirt made with Helmut Lang that says “It’s All About You” on the side. and “It’s not about you” on the other hand; or his political action committee, For Freedoms, co-founded in 2016 with Eric Gottesman, Michelle Woo, and Wyatt Gallery; or Network of Incarnate States, a organization founded with Baz Dreisinger circulates an exhibition of the work of former and former detainees individuals. Willis Thomas has a packed schedule: the exhibition “Another Justice: We Stand”, showcase works made of American flags and prison uniforms, opened in November at the Kayne Griffin gallery in Los Angeles (and billed as part of a For Greater Freedom initiative called “Another Justice: Any Vehicle” necessary”). However, he made time for ARTnews to create a list of individuals and organizations he feels should be honored as Deciders — people who, at this point, are moving the needle in the art world.

ARTnews Editor-in-Chief Sarah Douglas spoke with Willis Thomas about his experience deciding on Decider.

ARTnews: Let’s talk about the Decider list. What was your first reaction to an invitation from ARTnews?

Hank Willis Thomas: My first reaction was, “Oh, no, I didn’t! I don’t believe in lists! “The most important people are always left behind or feel less important. I hate that thought. But then I suddenly remembered our first conversation 15 years ago when I was just starting out in the art world and decided that you were going to give me a gift I couldn’t refuse. It was an honor and an opportunity to accept my hypocrisy. That’s what I want to do today. Thank you.

Lists can be frustrating.

The list is very limited. This list is not exhaustive. Almost none of the Decision Makers in my life are on this list. They include my mother, [scholar] Deborah Willis; my wife, Rujeko Hockley [cocurator of the last Whitney Biennial]; my longtime woman, Jack Shainman; my other exhibitors; my favorite artists and thinkers, Wangechi Mutu, Kambui Olujimi, Christopher Myers; collaborators from my studio, For Freedoms, and Wide Awake… Maybe I should rethink this whole thing! You mean it’s too late?!

That’s the list of people you find influential right now, but it’s not necessarily about you.

It’s an introduction to many and a reminder to some. Again, it is incomplete. It is a list of people, just a very small number of people, who WE think have ears at this time. Everyone is a community. None of us would be much without caring and considerate people, right? What I faced the most here was the limitations of my own memory.

It is true that there are people on the list who are not recognized like others.

A lot of what we know about people in the art world is what we see on social media or what we read in the newspapers, but a lot of the things I’m most excited about or interested in are what. behind the scenes— things people are doing without your knowledge. So I hope to attract more people.

Is there something the people on this list have in common?

Many of the people, organizations, and groups on this list take the things we’re all familiar with and see them in new ways. They are shifting the world on its axis so we can get a new perspective.

One thing many people and organizations have in common is a spirit of cooperation, which you also have. How has cooperation changed during the pandemic, when we are all so limited?

During the pandemic, there is a distance between us that we all really feel. At the same time, there is also an increased closeness that comes from knowing that we are all struggling with what is happening. It is exciting to find out what we can do together despite the limitations.

What does it mean to be influential?

When I think about what it means to be an influential “determiner” in the art world, I think of the idea of ​​trust. These are the people that when they say something, we believe it. We believe they believe it. We pay attention and are inspired. These are people with a track record of making impactful decisions who inspire change.

Let’s talk about the cover. What do you think about what you want to do for the cover?

I thought to myself, “What would Damien Hirst do?” That usually works.

What is your thought process in personalizing metrics? Do you see these as memoji portraits?

Metaverse is here. We’ve all become avatars in a way, haven’t we? When was the last time you really felt like yourself?

Does Hirst’s participation in the Drake album cover have any special meaning? After all, he is a pop culture phenomenon in his own right.

I will let the readers decide.

In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing problems in the art world today, whether they are problems faced by artists or organizations?

The biggest question everyone alive faces at this point is: Will my future self be satisfied with what I did during one of the most transgressive moments in human history? kind? That comes with a lot of questions for not only artists and institutions but also collectors, advocates, writers, and most importantly, the people who make up the organizations that have created their own. create and maintain the status quo. Try the following: Did I comply or did I transform? What have I transformed into? Is it reproductive? Is it divisive? How was I complicit? How distracted was I? How inspiring, how powerful, how interested? What have I done, what have I not done out? What have I said? What not
I say, and why?

What makes you most hopeful or optimistic about the future of the art world?

Somehow, I believe we will solve the problem of global warming before it is too late. I believe we can avoid catastrophic war. I believe that we can learn to love ourselves and each other more and more. I believe we can create art that can make this a reality. I am an artist with a strong voice, coming from the enslaved people of this land. I have two daughters who carry a rich legacy of overcoming obstacles and bringing beauty to light. I have no choice but to hope.

A version of this article appears in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of ARTnews, under the title “Introduce Ours Guest editor: Hank Willis Thomas. ”

https://www.artnews.com/art-news/artists/hank-willis-thomas-deciders-2022-introduction-1234612701/ Hank Willis Thomas – ARTnews.com

Yasmin Harisha

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