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Hank Willis Thomas, "The Cotton Bowl, 2011," from the series Strange Fruit; from Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal (Aperture/Portland Art Museum, 2018)
Portland Art Museum
Published: 13 November 2018

Presenting a survey of a prolific and extraordinary interdisciplinary career, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal... explores the artist's long-standing relationship to the photographic image and to issues of representation, perception, and American history.

At the core of Hank Willis Thomas' practice is the ability to parse and critically dissect the flow of images that comprise American culture, with particular attention to race, gender, and cultural identity.

Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… 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. This timely major exhibition will be the artist’s first comprehensive survey, exploring how Thomas points to the roles that images, brands, and popular icons play in perpetuating stereotypes as well as upending dominant culture narratives.

The exhibition focuses 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’ artist-run political action committee For Freedoms will take his work into direct contact with Portlanders in 2018.

The Museum is co-publishing a catalog with the Aperture Foundation including multiple contextualizing essays and an interview with the artist. Planned community partnerships in conjunction with All Things Being Equal… 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 and other Portland-area public schools; and the establishment of an interdisciplinary library that invites artists, writers, musicians, educators, and activists to contribute all types of media. Public programs will include a free public lecture by Thomas; educator workshops; curatorial conversations; and the Portland Art Museum’s quarterly Miller Family Community Free Day.

After its debut in Portland in Fall 2019, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… will travel to additional museums across the United States in 2020.

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