Hank Willis Thomas

Conceptual Artist

Grantee Cohort Spring 2018, Spring 2019

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist that works with themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His monograph, Pitch Blackness, was published in Aperture in 2008. Notable works include Strange Fruit (2011, Corcoran Gallery of Art), Hank Willis Thomas: I Am A Man (2016, New City Arts Initiative), and All Power to All People (2017, Philadelphia). He is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.

Writing on the Wall is a collaborative installation made from diagrams, essays, letters, notes, poems, and stories from incarcerated people around the world, including the United States, Australia, Brazil, Norway and Uganda. Through their grant, Hank and grantee partners Dr. Baz Dreisinger partnered with MASS Design Group to turn the pop-up concept into a traveling exhibiting and a collapsible booth. They have exhibited the work in public spaces across the nation and overseas and on the High Line through a partnership with grantee partner Friends of the High Line.

During the exhibits, formerly incarcerated leaders were paid to serve as hosts to engage viewers on different subjects. Each debut of “The Writing on the Wall” will be an event and ongoing campaign, coordinated in collaboration with organizations—including JustLeadershipUSA and #cut50—and led by formerly incarcerated community leaders. Along with the installation, Akashic Books will publish The Writing on the Wall: Psalms from my Cell, an anthology of poems by currently and formerly incarcerated people around the world.

Also, through the Incarceration Nations Network, Hank and Baz will continue projecting The Writing on the Wall installation in cities across America. Past installations garnered powerful press from such publications as The New York Times and The Marshall Project.