Kayne Griffin Corcoran presents Hank Willis Thomas’ first solo exhibition at the gallery. An All Colored Cast is an exploration of color theory, popular culture, the development of Pop Art, Color Field painting, Minimalism, and the Hollywood film industry. In this new body of work, Thomas examines the portrayals of gender, race, and identity through the lens of film, performance, and color motion pictures.
Using color theory and screen color calibration charts as an aesthetic starting point, Thomas re-examines the language surrounding “color correction” and “white balance” in order to demonstrate the charged language of color, particularly around the time of desegregation and the proliferation of Technicolor in America.
Thomas is interested in the notions of perspective and perception, specifically how framing and context influence what and how a viewer sees. The retroreflective prints and sculptural works on view in the exhibition are largely inspired by the work of Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Albers, and Andy Warhol; 20th century performers such as Bert Williams, Hattie McDaniel, and Fredi Washington; and the pioneering work of major motion-picture directors such as Gordon Parks.
Thomas draws directly from film and television stills, depicting snapshots throughout American cinema in the 20th century, including Lime Kiln Field Day (1913), Sundown (1941), Anna Lucasta (1958), Easy Rider (1969), Mandingo (1975), and Dukes of Hazzard (1979).
With an ongoing fascination in the framing of history, Thomas draws upon appropriated, and in this case, archival film images, Hollywood stills, and mid-century black-cast posters. His sculptures create both a pause for reflection and an opportunity for the viewer to step into the frame, while his retroreflective works—which are activated by flash photography—encourage a viewer to look closely. Much of Thomas’ work demands that viewers shift their position and engage directly in order to see a moment in its entirety, as a reminder of the multiple ways of looking at a given moment or subject. Through this invitation to participate, the viewer plays an active role as an agent and image-maker.
Hank Willis Thomas (lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. Solo exhibitions of his work have been featured at the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY among others. Thomas’ work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum and Brooklyn Museum (all New York, NY.)