Hank Willis Thomas
Black Imitates White

Thomas’ lenticular text-based works require viewers to shift positions as they view them in order to fully absorb their content. Meaning, therefore, changes depending on one’s perspective—and in the case of Thomas’ installation, only emerges when one knows that there is always something hidden, always more to one of his works than immediately meets the eye. This lenticular print with text shifts as you walk in front of it from its title, “Black Imitates White” to the inverse, “White Imitates Black”(and some other possibilities in between) emphasizing that there are always at least two perspectives to the same scenario, and thereby encouraging us as viewers to consider them all together rather than trying to identify with any one subjectivity.

Employing the visual language and terminology of mass media, and appropriating symbols and images from popular culture, Hank Willis Thomas’ work seeks to question and subvert established definitions and positions with regards to personal identity and the narrative of race. Working across installation, photography, video, and media work, Thomas maintains his photo conceptualist roots, primarily taking source material from found photographs and archives. These images form the basis from which the artist seeks to uncover the fallacies that history claims as truth. His work illustrates how the way history is represented and consumed reinforces generalizations surrounding identity, gender, race and ethnicity, and that as an artist he has an opportunity to expose or to revise those histories from the points of view of the oppressed.