Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He gained wide recognition with his highly provocative series B®ANDED, which addresses the commodification of African-American male identity by raising questions about visual culture and the power of logos.
In discussing the subject of identity in Art In America Magazine, Thomas said “An artist friend of mine, Bayeté Ross-Smith and I were walking down the street twenty-five years ago; we were coming from an after school program. I asked a question about why we were called ‘black’ if our skin was brown and Bayeté tried to tell me that my skin may be brown, but I’m black. I said, “No, I’m brown.” He said, “Yeah, but they call us ‘black’ to simplify it. It’s more direct.” In so many words, he was saying that it’s easier to group people into one [definition of] color, as opposed to identifying them under the many hues within their race. He helped me realize that though my skin may be brown, my identity is black and in that moment, it became clear to me that I was black. ”
After Identity, What? is part of the artist’s 1969 series. PS1 invited Hank Willis Thomas and other artists to respond to the year 1969, a period marked with revolution and socio-political tumult. The artists made work utilizing images from magazines of the period and juxtaposed them with text derived from the same publications. The resulting pieces demonstrate the concerns and social values of the era and reflect a historical perspective only the passage of time can provide.
The limited edition print After Identity, What? has an edition size of 15 and 3 artist proofs and it is signed and numbered by the artist. The paper size of this digital C-print is 16″ x 10″ and it can be purchased for $1200 on the online store of the Aperture Foundation.