In a Flash

Artist Hank Willis Thomas pays close attention to how images are framed, what is visible and what has been cut from view. In this work, he appropriates an archival photograph and presents it using a retroreflective printing process, cropped tightly to reveal the overlapping profiles of a man and a woman. The observer is challenged to view the work as a whole in part because the printing process transforms positive to negative space, and further because Thomas has removed the aesthetic cues that contextualize the work, demanding that the viewer move around the piece in order to understand the image. Interestingly, the work can be activated with a flash photograph to reveal the underlying image for a split second, reminding us that there are multiple ways to look at and understand any given moment, albeit a fleeting one. 

In recent years I have approached my art practice assuming the role of a visual culture archaeologist. I am interested in the ways that popular imagery informs how people perceive themselves and others around the world.

Hank Willis Thomas