Over at Artspace.com there’s a great interview with the artist Hank Willis Thomas on racism, advertising, politics, slavery, artistic production, the role of the artist in the 21st century and a great many other things. Thomas works with video, photography, interviews, iPad apps, and other formats. He collaborates and does solo work. The interview finds him in the process of moving into the sphere of ‘Post-Black’ art.

Hank Willis Thomas

A doodle of the artist I whipped up based on someone else’s photo!

Post-Black is an interesting term. I’d encountered it years ago, but hadn’t put any thought into it until about 2007 (pretty late; I know). That year I was at a Seattle museum for a public conversation between a couple of New York’s ad-hoc curators on post-diaspora black art.

They had a lot of imagery from many black artists and things were going along smoothly in their talk until the Q&A. At that point, a white guy in the audience announced that Kara Walker was the most important artist of the evening because her work was about the most relevant issue: slavery. That didn’t go down so well and I’m proud to say that my evening’s companion ripped the guy a new one.

She caustically explained black artists didn’t need anyone, black, white, or other, pigeon-holing them into particular dialogues. Black people can discuss what they want and he, as a white male and former Boston-based gallery owner, needed to get the fuck back as he was part of the problem. The problem of holding black people down.

I couldn’t have been more delighted that day.

Hank Willis Thomas discusses the role of the artist at the end of the interview and I’m going to throw a quote from him here, ” part of the role of the artist in the 20th and 21st century is to actually do the things that don’t make sense. So it’s okay for somebody to say, “I just mess around with chairs,” or “I just look at the color blue because it’s really interesting to me.” It opens doors to our minds that are less tapped, less used, because we’re not robots. And societies where art is repressed wind up in (sic) fascist societies, and they don’t last as we saw with communism. If you suppress those voices, people freak out and it collapses.”

Beautiful. Just beautiful. And wait ’til you read what he has to say about Obama.

His website. His Wikipedia entry.



Speaking of Racist Advertising… | 2012 | Interview | Tags: , , , , ,