ICA Miami presents a curated selection of works by Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976, Plainfield, New Jersey) featuring examples from the artist’s two “Unbranded” series.
Probing the intersection of identity, race, class, and media and popular culture, Thomas appropriates images from historical advertisements in order to highlight their subliminal structures of racial prejudice. “In recent years, I have approached my art practice assuming the role of a visual culture archaeologist,” says the artist. “I am interested in the ways that popular imagery informs how people perceive themselves and others around the world.”
Based on important works in ICA Miami’s permanent collection, the presentation includes works from two photographic series that use forms of erasure in advertising to reframe the images’ meanings. “Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America, 1968–2008” (2008) features imagery from print advertisements directed toward an African American audience of the past fifty years, while “Unbranded: A Century of White Women, 1915–2015” (2015) focuses on images constructing notions of beauty, privilege, and virtue. Stripping these images of their logos and advertising language, Thomas explores the cultural stereotypes they reinforce and the forms of inequality they propagate.
Thomas lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and internationally, including solo exhibitions at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2017); California African American Museum, Los Angeles (2016); International Center of Photography, New York (2013); Baltimore Museum of Art (2009); and Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (2008). His work has been included in important group exhibitions at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town (2016); Brooklyn Museum (2016); Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2015); International Center of Photography, New York (2013), and many others. His work is held in numerous institutional and private collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; and Kadist Art Foundation, Paris.