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OPP: Other People's Property

A man’s chest scarred with Nike’s famous “swoosh” logo. The familiar outline of an Absolut Vodka bottle transformed into a slave ship. A photograph of a basketball player dunking through a hangman’s noose. This is a glimpse of the modern world through the eyes of Hank Willis Thomas. The photo conceptual artist uses photography, film, sculpture and other media to comment on the underlying racism and exploitation at the core of professional sports in America and addresses the ways in which advertising and popular culture create and perpetuate stereotypes about race and gender. Using the universal language of our age—advertising—he asks viewers to examine cultural identity, ownership and commerce, particularly in respect to race.

OPP: Other People’s Property, which opens January 25, 2013, in Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, is a broad survey of Thomas’ work. Curated by Kalia Brooks, former curator of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn and current adjunct professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the solo show features pieces from several of Thomas’ series. Those from B®anded explore advertising language and logos, particularly those featuring African American men. Unbranded presents images from ads that were created for black audiences. Strange Fruit entwines the visual signifiers of lynching and professional sports, and Winter in America uses animated G.I. Joe figures to tell the story of Thomas’ cousin’s murder. In the many different artworks—from a framed portrait of a beatific Uncle Ben (of rice box fame) to a kitty litter ad from Ebony magazine stripped of its marketing copy—Thomas uses provocation and sly humor to help viewers understand not only their place in the consumer culture, but also how the way things are sold to us impacts how we see ourselves and others.

Hank Willis Thomas received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA in photography and an MA in visual criticism from California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. Thomas has acted as a visiting professor at CCA and in the MFA programs at Maryland Institute College of Art and ICP/Bard and has lectured at Yale University, Princeton University, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. His work has been featured in 25 under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers and 30 Americans, as well as in the Aperture monograph Pitch Blackness. Thomas received a new media fellowship through the Tribeca Film Institute, was an artist in residence at John Hopkins University, and was a 2011 fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University. He has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad. His work is in numerous public collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum and Museum of Modern Art. He was a fellow at the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College in spring 2012. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City.

The opening reception for OPP: Other People’s Property will take place Friday, January 25, 2013, from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. in the Gallery. A gallery conversation with the curator and artist precedes the opening at 4:30 p.m. The exhibit will run through March 8, 2013.

This exhibit is made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Mellon Tri-College Creative Residencies Program. haverford.edu/hcah

Overseen by the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and located in Whitehead Campus Center, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is open Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 12 noon to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays until 8 p.m. For more information, contact Matthew Seamus Callinan, campus exhibitions coordinator, at (610) 896-1287 or by emailing mcallina@haverford.edu.

More information can be found at http://www.haverford.edu/hankwillisthomas.

Haverford College is located at 370 Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, PA, 19041

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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