WHAT: Globally-renowned artist Hank Willis Thomas is giving this year’s Downing Pryor Lecture at the Memphis College of Art. He is a co-founder of the first-ever artist-driven super PAC, For Freedoms, and his work is meant to initiate dialogue about race, politics, and art and is particularly relevant to Memphis in the 50th year after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The lecture, “I am. Amen,” is free and open to the public.
WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 14, 6:00-8:30pm. Reception from 6:00-7:00pm, with lecture and Q&A following.
WHERE: Callicott Auditorium, Rust Hall, Memphis College of Art, 1930 Poplar Ave, 38104
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including, the International Center of Photography and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Thomas’s work is in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms, which Thomas co-founded in 2016 as the first-ever artist-run super PAC. For Freedoms was recently awarded the 2017 ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is also the recipient of the 2017 Soros Equality Fellowship. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and a MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. He has also received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Thomas lives and works in New York City.
“This series of paintings (above) was inspired by a 1968 photograph by Ernest Withers of marchers during the Memphis sanitation workers March. Martin Luther King was assassinated while there in support of the March. The men carried signs which read ‘I am a Man’. I found it fascinating that the phrase I grew up with was ‘I am THE Man’. The collective statement became individualistic in the age of integration. Reflecting on American history I wanted to riff and remix the text, ultimately ending with the revelation ‘I Am. Amen.’ MLK showed us that our greatest gift is our consciousness and it is up to us what we choose to do with it.” Hank Willis Thomas, from Artist of the Day
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