Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976)
The Cotton Bowl, 2011
The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College
The art of Hank Willis Thomas is held in numerous collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Oakland Museum of California, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Hank Willis Thomas’ work explores the similarities between African-American masculinity pre and post-civil war. Willis uses athletes throughout most of his recent series performing various skills while attached to chains. He also uses the noose in this particular series. Titled “Strange Fruit” The work explores the issue of African American’s complicated history with the noose.
In his piece “The Cotton Bowl” Thomas explores the juxtaposition of two industries that are viewed as exploiting black men, particularly African-American college athletes.
Thomas, born in 1976 in Plainfield, New Jersey, received a BFA in photography and African Studies at New York University. He earned an MFA in photography and an MA in visual criticism at California College of the Arts. Thomas has had solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. Thomas has received several honors to include the W.E.B Du Bois Institute President Fellowship at Harvard University in 2011.
The Cotton Bowl is part of the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art gifted by Barbara and Theodore Alfond.
Image courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York