States Of Being

Hank Willis Thomas

Biography Bibliography Press News

Works (Tap to zoom)


Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976 Plainfield, NJ; lives and works in New York, NY) is a conceptual artist focusing on themes relating to perspective, identity, commodity, media and popular culture. His work often incorporates widely-recognizable icons—many from well-known advertising or branding campaigns—to explore their ability to reinforce generalizations developed around race, gender and ethnicity. Thomas created one of his most iconic photography series in 2006, B®anded, where he superimposed bodies of Black men with the Nike swoosh logo recalling the history of branding slaves in America as well as the literal and figural objectification of Black male bodies in contemporary culture.

A trained photographer, over the past several years, Thomas’ practice has evolved to incorporate a variety of media including mirrors and retroreflective vinyl —an industrial material rarely used in the arts—to challenge perspectives in his work, exploring 20th century protest images and often overlooked historical narratives. Many of these protest images are activated by flash photography playing with role reversal by having the viewer step into the position of image maker. By adding multiple, hidden layers, Thomas also asks the view to consider who is included in history and who is erased, revealing the complicated nature of storytelling and the bias of history. Influenced by social history and the hard-fought, perennial battle for equality in all areas of his work, Thomas co-founded For Freedoms with artist Eric Gottesman in 2016 as a platform for creative civic engagement in America. Inspired by American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—For Freedoms uses art to encourage and deepen public explorations of freedom in the 21st century.


Stressed World
The School, Jun 05 – Dec 03, 2022
Hank Willis Thomas: Everything We See Hides Another Thing
20th Street, Sep 08 – Oct 29, 2022
This Tender, Fragile Thing
The School, Jan 15 – Apr 30, 2022
Parking On Pavement
The School, Nov 17, 2018 – Mar 02, 2019
Hank Willis Thomas: What We Ask Is Simple
20th Street, Mar 29 – May 12, 2018
The Coffins of Paa Joe and the Pursuit of Happiness
The School, Jun 08, 2017 – Feb 24, 2018
The Coffins of Paa Joe and the Pursuit of Happiness
Jun 08 – Aug 25, 2017
The Past is Present
Mar 16 – Apr 22, 2017
For Freedoms
20th Street, Jun 07 – Aug 30, 2016
Winter In America
The School, Oct 17, 2015 – Mar 19, 2016
Unbranded: A Century Of White Women
20th Street, Apr 10 – May 23, 2015
Status Quo
The School, Jan 31 – Apr 12, 2015
Mise En Scène
The School, Aug 01 – Dec 01, 2014
And Question Bridge: Black Males
20th Street, Jul 11 – Aug 23, 2013
What Goes Without Saying
20th Street, Oct 18 – Dec 08, 2012
Pitch Blackness
20th Street, Feb 12 – Mar 14, 2009
20th Street, Jun 29 – Jul 28, 2006
20th Street, Mar 16 – Apr 15, 2006