Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hank Willis-Thomas Interview

Hank Willis-Thomas

I was introduced to Mr. Thomas' art back in 2005.  A friend of mine at the time had a blog where he mentioned the artist's work.  I was intrigued by the images he posted and I went to the artist's website to discover more.  It was love at first sight and I've been a fan of Mr. Thomas' works ever since.  Whenever I would have discussions about race relations in America, I would almost always bring up Hank Willis-Thomas.

His Branded series was most resonant for me.  His visual commentary on entities like Nike and the NBA really struck a chord in my intellect and I am continually inspired by his views.  I see this site as an attempt to express Hip-Hop as fine art and Mr. Thomas is doing this successfully whether he intends to or not.  It only made sense to work on finding out a little more about him as a person.

I reached out to Mr. Thomas to bring him to you in his own words and he graciously obliged.  Instead of rehashing the same questions he's answered hundreds of times over in previous interviews, we decided to take a more light-hearted approach.  For more on Hank Willis-Thomas and his incredibly moving art, please visit www.hankwillisthomas.com or search the web for in-depth interviews.  He's a fascinating gentleman.

RF: I managed to catch you out of the country. What are you up to? 

Hank Willis-Thomas: My first solo show in South Africa opened at the Goodman Gallery in Cape Town.  So I was there for the installation and opening. I also went to Luanda, Angola to check out the upcoming Triennial.  

RF: I don't imagine that you have a ton of downtime, but what do you enjoy doing when you're not working?  
HWT: I don't think I'm ever not working.  The greatest benefit of being an artist is that even when you're doing the most banal things or procrastinating, you are still working.

 Basketball and Chain

RF: In previous interviews you've stated that you felt you had some limitations in your photography. How has your photography evolved over the last year or 2?  

HWT: I don't really take pictures anymore.  My work has become more conceptual - thinking about how images are used rather than capturing them.

RF: I know you don't watch much TV but I'm certain you're aware of the cultural phenomenon that is The Boondocks. I'm just throwing this out there: I think it would be incredibly cool for you to do collaborative work with Aaron McGruder. I think your work is similar in many ways. You both have a lot to say and very interesting and unique ways of speaking.  

HWT: Sure.  Hook it up!

 Absolut Power

RF: It's always interesting to talk with Black men of varying educational and economic backgrounds about the “N” word. I think too many people focus on the word itself as opposed to the lack of tact when it comes to the words use. What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you use the term?  

HWT: I don't use the "N" word.  I don't know how many ways you can use it tactfully unless you're using it in the context of history or as an insult.  That being said, it does roll off the tongue pretty easily and the term "my nigger" can bring some strange sense of comfort.  
RF: How has the current economic trend affected your work? (In terms of ideas.)  

HWT: I don't think it has.  I have been too busy trying to figure out how we got here that many things of the present moment are still lost on me.  I'm very aware that these economic cycles occur and will continue to occur throughout our lifetime.  I'm more worried about the political ramifications and the greed and selfishness that seems to be re-surging from the "right wing".

 Are You the Right Kind of Woman for It?

RF: Fashion week is coming up in NY. Will you be involved at all? Are you fashion forward or generally disinterested?  

HWT: I'm not in NY so won't be involved.  I think fashion is great but it's not something that I put too much thought into.  Maybe I should...

RF: This is probably the most serious question of this entire interview: Team Blackberry or Team iPhone?

HWT: I think the iPhone is cooler and better for distractions but the Blackberry is more functional for getting messages and communication.  I like the iPhone because it's easier to ignore than the Blackberry.

 The Mandingo of Sandwiches

Images courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery

1 comment:

Lamere said...

Team Blackberry or Team iPhone? ----> haha, i like that one.