Hank Willis Thomas
Intentionally Left Blanc
Intentionally Left Blanc alludes to the technical process of its own (non)production; a procedure known as retro-reflective screen printing in which the image is only fully brought to life through its exposure to flash lighting. Using a found photograph depicting a passionate crowd of African Americans—their attitude suggesting the fervor of a civil-rights era audience—Intentionally Left Blanc reverts in its exposed, “positive” format to an image in which select faces are whitened out and erased, the exact inverse of the same view in its “negative” condition. This dialectic of light and dark re-emerges when we view the same faces again, only this time black and featureless, a scattering of disembodied heads amidst a sea of white. The context of the photograph was during protests in the 6os against gerrymandering and redistricting that sought to segregate the black and white populations. Here, Thomas approaches the situation with a revisionist eye, this time erasing and removing the white audience members, and thereby ironically reclaiming the same action they took against the black community.