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: All Things Being Equal… receives NEA grant

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018.  Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $60,000 to the Portland Art Museum for Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…. The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as the Portland Art Museum, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

“We are honored as a Museum to receive funding from the NEA to present this survey of Hank Willis Thomas—a thoughtful and creatively insightful artist that I am confident will challenge and inspire our visitors, as well as prompt important dialogue,” commented Museum Director Brian Ferriso.

The exhibition slated for Portland in fall 2019 and traveling to additional US museums in 2020, highlights the work of an artist devoted to reframing perspectives on difficult issues central to American history and the representation of race and the politics of visual culture. Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… will be the artist’s first comprehensive survey, and explores how Thomas points to the roles that images, brands, and popular icons play in perpetuating stereotypes as well as upending dominant culture narratives.

Co-curators Julia Dolan, The Minor White Curator of Photography, and Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art will focus on how Thomas reframes popular, commercial and media images and creates participatory opportunities to foster knowledge and embrace new viewpoints. Collaboration is central to Thomas’ artistic practice; works like In Search of the Truth (Truth Booth), which the Museum hosted in 2016, and a new project by Thomas’s artist-run political action committee For Freedoms will take his work into direct contact with Portlanders in 2018. The Museum will also co-publish a catalogue with the Aperture Foundation including multiple contextualizing essays and an interview with the artist.

Community-centered dialogue and partnership programs will include the continuation of a multi-year engagement with the Museum of Impact, the world’s first mobile social justice museum; collaboration with King School Museum of Contemporary Art; a free lecture by Thomas; educator workshops; curatorial conversations; Miller Family Free Day, and Portland Public School collaborations.

The Museum also received $100,000 from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to fund the exhibition.

About the Artist
Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976), is a conceptual artist who has participated in more than three hundred solo and multi-artist exhibitions and his work has been collected worldwide. He holds a B.F.A. from New York University, New York and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco. The exhibition and publication will be the first to dive deeply into his sophisticated understanding of image networks, circulation, and proliferation, positioning Thomas as a significant figure linking the past (Pop art, the Pictures Generation, and conceptualism) to the current ways art operates as an active, heterogeneous platform to engage and critique the Internet age.

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.