WOW – Work Of the Week – Hank Willis Thomas “Black Power”

Black Power

Black Power
16 x 20 in.
Edition of 30

Signed and numbered in ink

About This Work:

Hank Willis Thomas is an American artist who employs the familiar, or “what-goes-without-saying”, to draw connections and provoke conversations about issues and histories that are often forgotten or avoided in our commerce-infused daily lives. 

He gained wide recognition with highly provocative artworks which address the commodification of African-American male identity by raising questions about visual culture and the power of logos. 
His most important work is represented by the so-called Branded Series, among which is the dynamic piece Black Power, probably the most famous of the series.
In this work of the week, Black Power, Hank Willis Thomas presents a set of teeth on which a gold grill reads BLACK POWER.

Black Power, as well as other works by Willis Thomas, deals with issues of grief, black-on-black violence, the contributions of corporate culture to the crisis of black male identity, and African-American representation in advertising and media.
For this reason, some art critics have categorized Willis Thomas’ work as belonging to the “post-black” genre, where racist stereotypes are reinterpreted or reconstructed, and have described his work as “un-branding advertising”: stripping away the commercial context, and leaving the exposed image to speak for itself.

Something very important about Willis Thomas’ work is that it has been heavily influenced by the tragic loss of his young cousin, Songha Willis Thomas, who was murdered by another black man outside a Philadelphia night club in an incident of violence involving a gold chain.
The artist credits this event with helping him find his “artistic focus”. 

Hank Willis Thomas (born in Plainfield, New Jersey, 1976) received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and his MFA in photography, along with an MA in visual criticism, from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco.
Since then, he has exhibited in numerous galleries and museums in the United States.

With his characteristic strong dark humor, every time Willis Thomas creates a visual dialogue about the pressing issues of race, representation, and a sort of present day enslavement through consumerism which applies to the American society, with a focus on African-American youth. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – Ellsworth Kelly “Blue Green Black Red” 10/13/15

Ellsworth KellyBlue Green Black Red

Ellsworth Kelly
Blue Green Black Red
Offset lithograph
29 3/4  x 27 1/4 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed & numbered

About This Work:

For more than fifty years, Ellsworth Kelly has worked to refine elements of the observed world into rigorous abstraction with a bold clarity and elegance.  “My work has always been about vision, the process of seeing,” he notes. “Each work of art is a fragment of a larger context… . I’ve always been interested in things that I see that don’t make sense out of context, that lead you into something else.”  

Maintaining a persistent focus on the dynamic relationships between shape, form and color, Kelly challenges viewers’ conceptions of space. He intends for viewers to experience his artwork with instinctive, physical responses to the work’s structure, color, and surrounding space, rather than with contextual or interpretive analysis.  

His flat, immaculate compositions of pure line, simple forms, and saturated, unmodulated color are, in essence, found images, distillations of architectural details, shadows, plants, and other subtle forms that often might be overlooked. The contour of a leaf, the arch of a bridge and its reflection in water, and the soft curve of a hillside seen from the road have inspired paintings, sculptures, and prints alike.  His art work represent a subjective interpretation of reality, rather than a descriptive copy of it.

Kelly’s arrangement of the complementary colors, which work to intensify one another at their intersections, is also an essential component of the work.  In the 1971 lithograph Blue, Green, Black, and Red rectangles are laid, one on top of the other, in arrangements that suggest fragments of a remembered landscape.   Perhaps it is several stories of a building, or perhaps a billboard looked, from a certain angle, or the way a shadow once fell.

Ordinary memories such as these, Kelly has said, prompt many of his works. ”As we move, looking at hundreds of different things, we see many different kinds of shapes. Roofs, walls, ceilings are all rectangles, but we don’t see them that way. In reality they’re very elusive forms. The way the view through the rungs of a chair changes when you move even the slightest bit – I want to capture some of that mystery in my work.”

About The Artist:

“I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges and mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness.” – Ellswoth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly is an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker associated with Hard-edge painting, Color Field painting and the Minimalist school. His works demonstrate unassuming techniques emphasizing the simplicity of form.

Although Kelly can now be considered an essential innovator and contributor to the American abstraction art movement, he was not always seen in such a positive light. It was hard for many to find the connection between Kelly’s art and the dominant stylistic trends  For Example, observing how light fragmented on the surface of water, he painted Seine (1950), made of black and white rectangles arranged by chance.

He created a new freedom of painterly expression.  He began working in extremely large formats and explored the concepts of seriality and monochrome paintings.  As a painter he worked in an exclusively abstract mode. By the late 1950s his painting stressed shape and planar masses (often assuming non-rectilinear formats). His work of this period also provided a useful bridge from the vanguard American geometric abstraction of the 1930s and early 1940s to the Minimalism and reductive art of the mid-1960s and 1970s.

Kelly has distilled his palette and introduced forms never before.  He starts with a rectangular canvas that he carefully paints with many coats of white paint; a shaped canvas, usually painted in a single bright color, is placed on top.  The quality of line seen in his paintings and in the form of his shaped canvases is very subtle.  The use of form and shadow, as well as the construction and deconstruction of the visible implies perfection.

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