A keen observer of commodity culture, Hank Willis Thomas’ art exposes the exploitation of black bodies in advertisements and corporate branding and - through his powerful images - reveals the complex, everyday politics of race. Sports are a recurring theme in his work and his sculptural practice is influenced by photography’s ability to manipulate scenes through cropping or deliberate omission.
Thomas uses the imagery of a strong, muscular, yet disembodied, male arm to comment on the idea of sports and athletics being a “way out” for many, young African-American males living in poor, underserved neighborhoods. Thomas employs a traditional casting method to capture his model’s athletic arm, yet finishes the work with a commercial auto paint, thereby blurring the distinction between fine art and popular culture. In works such as this, Thomas seeks to reveal hidden narratives previously overlooked or deemed unworthy of representation by contemporary society.