Hank Willis Thomas, Branded Head, 2003
Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976), Branded Head, 2003, from the series Branded, Chromogenic print, Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York © Hank Willis Thomas.
Hank Willis Thomas, The Cotton Bowl, from the series Strange Fruit, 2011
Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976). The Cotton Bowl, from the series Strange Fruit, 2011. Digital c-print. 50 x 73 inches. © Hank Willis Thomas, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Hank Willis Thomas, We The People, 2015
Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976). We The People, 2015. Quilt made out of decommissioned prison uniforms. 73 1/4 x 88 1/4 inches. © Hank Willis Thomas, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Oct 12, 2019 – Jan 12, 2020

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.”

The many works included in All Things Being Equal… demonstrate Thomas’s inventive exploration of photography, advertising, and modern art and their many sociocultural ramifications. The exhibition groups art works thematically to illuminate subjects that Thomas has treated with sensitive nuance throughout his career, including the human toll of gun violence, the impact of corporate branding and the commodification of individuals, and the ways advertising plays to myths and stereotypes of race. The exhibition also highlights Thomas’s investigation of archival images from many sources and how he has applied strategies of appropriating and reframing texts, images, and materials to connect historical moments of resistance and protest to our lives today as a call to continue moving toward greater social justice.

Portland Art Museum visitors and passersby have already interacted with Thomas’s work—first in 2016’s In Search of the Truth (Truth Booth), a traveling collective work with artists Ryan Alexiev, Jim Ricks and Will Sylvester, inviting audiences to complete the sentence “The Truth Is…” while being videotaped, and more recently with the For Freedoms 50 States Initiative banners promoting voting in the 2018 mid-term elections.

“Hank Willis Thomas is an artist who works in multiple mediums, including collaborative projects. Our For Freedoms partnership gave museum-goers a preview of his deeply human-centered approach, grounded in respecting each individual’s voice and seeing each person as a whole being, not a stereotype or an ‘other,’” said Sara Krajewski, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “In both his solo work and his collaborations, Thomas asks us to reframe our perceptions of race, politics, history, and popular culture so that we can better understand and combat the systems that dehumanize us.”

A comprehensive publication accompanies the exhibition. Co-published with Aperture in 2018, the book features essays by the exhibition’s co-curators, as well as new scholarship by Professor Sarah Lewis (Harvard University), and an interview with the artist by Dr. Kellie Jones (Columbia University).

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 (b. 1976, Plainfield, N.J.; lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y.) is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including the International Center of Photography, New York; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands. Solo exhibitions of his work have been featured at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Ga.; California African American Museum, Los Angeles; Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va.; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio; The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Conn.; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Md.; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Mo., and the African American Museum, Philadelphia, among others.

His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms. In 2017, For Freedoms was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), Art for Justice Grant (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), Aperture West Book Prize (2008), Renew Media Arts Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation (2007), and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Award (2006).

He is also a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York. Thomas holds a B.F.A. from New York University, New York (1998) and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco (2004). He received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, Portland, Maine, in 2017.

In 2017, the artist unveiled his permanent public artwork “Love Over Rules” in San Francisco and “All Power to All People” in Opa Locka, Fla. Thomas was recently chosen to design Boston’s Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial, with MASS Design Group.

Nov
16
Sat
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal…
Nov 16 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal...

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Nov
17
Sun
Film: Koyaanisqatsi
Nov 17 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Presented in conjunction with Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, artist Hank Willis Thomas has selected a wide-ranging series of films that grapple with mass media, race, and representation in the contemporary United States. See all films in the series.

Free to Members or with Museum admission.

Reserve tickets
Nov
22
Fri
Don’t Shoot Portland Printmaking Workshop
Nov 22 @ 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Join social justice nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland as they combine forces with community members to widen the lens of racial identity. This workshop is an opportunity to become a part of the artistic justice movement by creating posters, screen prints, tote bags and more – all in the name of driving civic engagement.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Nov
23
Sat
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal…
Nov 23 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal...

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Dec
1
Sun
Film + In Dialogue: Life and Debt
Dec 1 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

In Dialogue facilitated by Dr. Roberta Hunte

Dr. Roberta Hunte is an educator, facilitator, and cultural worker. She is an Assistant Professor in Child Youth and Family Studies and affiliate faculty in Women Gender and Sexuality Studies and Black Studies here at Portland State University. She facilitates trainings on equity, diversity and inclusion. She is a collaborator on the theatre pieces  My Walk Has Never Been Average and We Are Brave, and a short film Sista in the Brotherhood. Her research on  Black tradeswomen and reproductive justice informs her performance work. She is on the board of Partnership for Safety and Justice. Her research areas are Black women in the trades, Black women and maternal health, and students of color pathways to higher education in Oregon.

This In Dialogue series will facilitate discussions in relation to the Hank Willis Thomas film series. Immediately following the screenings, we will engage in group conversation that takes inspiration from the themes and topics raised within the selected films.

Presented in conjunction with Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, artist Hank Willis Thomas has selected a wide-ranging series of films that grapple with mass media, race, and representation in the contemporary United States. See all films in the series.

Space is limited. Registration required.

Film + In Dialogue tickets Film Only tickets
Dec
6
Fri
Power Up
Dec 6 @ 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Power Up

That’s right, it’s the sixth annual celebration of LGBTQIA2S+ youth and allies! Experience Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… Make art, make friends, and have fun!

More info to come.

Dec
12
Thu
Rescheduled: Kimberly Drew
Dec 12 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Rescheduled: Kimberly Drew

This event has been rescheduled for January 9. View updated event.

Kimberly Drew, Writer, Curator, Activist

Join Kimberly Drew for a discussion of photography’s central role in Hank Willis Thomas’s work, and a consideration of the medium’s historical and new uses in the popular press, advertising, and social media. Drew received her B.A. from Smith College in Art History and African-American Studies, and she first experienced the art world as an intern in the Director’s Office of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her time there inspired the Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art and sparked her interest in social media. Drew’s writing has appeared in VogueGlamourWTeen Vogue, and Lenny Letter, and she has executed Instagram takeovers for Prada, The White House, and Instagram. Drew recently left her role as the Social Media Manager at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can follow Drew at @museummammy on Instagram and Twitter.

Sponsored by the Arnold & Augusta Newman Foundation.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

ASL interpreters will be provided for this event.

Dec
14
Sat
Miller Family Free Day: Hank Willis Thomas
Dec 14 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Miller Family Free Day: Hank Willis Thomas

Join us for a range of community programs and activities highlighting themes related to Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…. Free admission to the galleries all day. 

Free family and community programs are generously supported in part by Sharon L. Miller and Family, The Gordon D. Sondland and Katherine J. Durant Foundation, The Lamb Baldwin Foundation, and The Joseph E. Weston Public Foundation.

Film: Malcolm X: Make it Plain
Dec 14 @ 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Presented in conjunction with Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, artist Hank Willis Thomas has selected a wide-ranging series of films that grapple with mass media, race, and representation in the contemporary United States. See all films in the series.

Free to Members or with Museum admission.

Reserve tickets
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal…
Dec 14 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal...

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Dec
15
Sun
Film: American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
Dec 15 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Presented in conjunction with Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, artist Hank Willis Thomas has selected a wide-ranging series of films that grapple with mass media, race, and representation in the contemporary United States. See all films in the series.

Free to Members or with Museum admission.

Reserve tickets
Dec
21
Sat
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal…
Dec 21 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal...

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Jan
4
Sat
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal…
Jan 4 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal...

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Jan
5
Sun
Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Jan 5 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Presented in conjunction with Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, artist Hank Willis Thomas has selected a wide-ranging series of films that grapple with mass media, race, and representation in the contemporary United States. See all films in the series.

Free to Members or with Museum admission.

Reserve tickets
Jan
9
Thu
Kimberly Drew: Arnold Newman Distinguished Lecturer in Photography
Jan 9 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Kimberly Drew: Arnold Newman Distinguished Lecturer in Photography

Kimberly Drew, Writer, Curator, Activist

Join Kimberly Drew for a discussion of photography’s central role in Hank Willis Thomas’s work, and a consideration of the medium’s historical and new uses in the popular press, advertising, and social media. Drew received her B.A. from Smith College in Art History and African-American Studies, and she first experienced the art world as an intern in the Director’s Office of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her time there inspired the Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art and sparked her interest in social media. Drew’s writing has appeared in VogueGlamourWTeen Vogue, and Lenny Letter, and she has executed Instagram takeovers for Prada, The White House, and Instagram. Drew recently left her role as the Social Media Manager at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can follow Drew at @museummammy on Instagram and Twitter.

Sponsored by the Arnold & Augusta Newman Foundation.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

ASL interpreters will be provided for this event.

Purchase tickets
Jan
11
Sat
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal…
Jan 11 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: All Things Being Equal...

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

Jan
12
Sun
Film + In Dialogue: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Jan 12 @ 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm

In Dialogue facilitated by ariella tai 

ariella tai is a video artist, film scholar, and independent programmer from Queens, New York. They are interested in the materiality of black performance and gesture as vernaculars which subvert, interrupt or defy the diegetic cohesiveness of narrative. They use appropriated media from film and television, analog video processing tools, film and installation to explore these interjections. They are one half of “the first and the last,” a fellowship, workshop and screening series supporting and celebrating the work of black women and femmes in film, video and new media art. They have shown work at PICA, the Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival, the Northwest Film Center, Boathouse Microcinema, Wa Na Wari, Anthology Film Archives, Smack Mellon and MOCA.

This In Dialogue series will facilitate discussions in relation to the Hank Willis Thomas film series. Immediately following the screenings, we will engage in group conversation that takes inspiration from the themes and topics raised within the selected films.

Presented in conjunction with Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…, artist Hank Willis Thomas has selected a wide-ranging series of films that grapple with mass media, race, and representation in the contemporary United States. See all films in the series.

Space is limited. Registration required.

Film + In Dialogue tickets Film Only tickets

Presenting Sponsor

  • The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Lead Sponsors

  • Henry Luce Foundation
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • The Collins Foundation

Major Sponsors

  • Samuel H. Kress Foundation
  • The Zidell Family Foundation
  • Spencer Noecker and Cambria Benson Noecker
  • Community Catalyst Initiative
  • Exhibition Series Sponsors

Sponsors

  • Contemporary Art Council of the Portland Art Museum
  • The Jackson Foundation
  • Travel Portland
  • Ed Cauduro Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation
  • McGeady Family Foundation
  • Dan Wieden and Priscilla Bernard Wieden
  • The Clark Foundation

Supporters

  • adidas
  • Arnold and Augusta Newman Foundation
  • hivemodern.com
  • LookModern
  • PDX CONTEMPORARY ART
  • Photo Council of the Portland Art Museum
  • Jordan Schnitzer
  • Jack Shainman Gallery
  • Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Friends

Helina and Al-Fraouq Aminu, Linda and Scott Andrews, Amjad and Helen Bangash, Deborah Bergman, Donald and Mary Blair, Lisa Domenico Brooke and Bing Bingham, Blake and Mark Bruun, Karie Burch, Mary and Spencer Dick, Ambassador Gordon D. Sondland and Ms. Katherine J. Durant, Lana and Christian Finley, Ryan and Mary Finley, Jill and Tony Garvey, Suzanne Geary, Alix and Thomas Goodman, John Goodwin, Greg Kucera, Jordan Schnitzer, Sara Krajewski, Kathleen Lewis, Elizabeth Lilley, Cyndy and Edward Maletis, Jay and Tonia Mason, Shawn and Albert Menashe, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew J. Meigs, Nathan Sasaki, Grace Serbu, Angela and Rex Snow, Vanessa Sturgeon, Lisa Goodman and Josef Vascovitz, Jim and Susan Winkler.