Cover art for podcast The Institute of Black Imagination.

The Institute of Black Imagination.

51 EpisodesProduced by darioWebsite

Welcome to The Institute of Black Imagination hosted by artist, writer, and brand consultant Dario Calmese. Each week we bring you conversations from The Pool of Black Genius: a collection of iconoclasts at the leading edge of cultural thought and innovation. More than anything, we are here to inspi… read more


E28. Dissolving the Illusion with Artist Hank Willis Thomas.

Today’s episode is with conceptual artist, Hank Willis Thomas. Hailing from the mean streets of Plainfield, NJ… That’s a joke, by the way,. Hank’s body of work  explores themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture, Hank is one of the most celebrated artists of his generation.  

The son of musician and physicist Hank Thomas, and artist, photographer, historian, curator and educator, Deborah Willis, one could say that art runs though Hanks’s veins.  Growing up amongst the stacks of Harlem’s Schomburg Library, where his mother served as curator of photographs and as exhibition coordinator, his exposure to the power of images began at an early age.  He went on to study photography and Africana Studies at New York University and later received his masters of fine arts in Photography at California College of the Arts, but it was the blunt force of family tragedy that spurred a turning point in his career; all of a sudden, the photographic frame could no longer contain everything he wanted to say.

The execution-style murder of his cousin and best friend, Songha Willis while visiting family over the holidays ripped the Willis family apart, and an image he took of his grieving family, became one of his signature works,  titled “Priceless”. Mimicking the popular MasterCard ads of the era, it crystallizes Hank’s artistic lens, the combined effects of consumerism, capitalism, advertising, and their impact on Black life in America. 

His work has been exhibited the world over, and is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim, The Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum… you get the idea. He’s a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship and The Guggenheim Fellowship, amongst others, and holds honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts.

In today’s episode, we discuss the power images hold, the importance of family and especially grandmothers, the illusion of separation, and the invention of race in United States.  This is one of those episodes you’ll want to listen to again and again, and if you find this content valuable, be sure to leave us a review over on Apple Podcasts and shout us out over on Instagram at @blackimagination, we love love love to hear from you.  Now, get ready for this powerful tête-à-tête, with the artistic genius of Hank Willis Thomas.

Follow Hank on Instagram: @hankwillisthomas

Hank's Website:

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