Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Hank Willis Thomas, an essay

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“He makes clear that even the most successful African American men and White Women make good within roles scripted for them by others, in narratives that provide them with few options or real alternatives. Hoop dreams and football fantasies, like suitable marriages, happy households and feminine charms, are constructed ideals, actualized within well-defined social cages, gilded though they may be.”

Shelley Rice on Unbranded: A Century of White Women 1915-2015 by Hank Willis Thomas.
No anxious moments, 1918/2015, digital chromogenic print, 2015.

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Hank Willis Thomas, an interview


“One of the aspects that I love about your work is how you use the archive, and time you spending going through the collection. You understand the importance of the visual archive because you want to examine how it reshapes the past. In addition I am interested in how you identify, locate and preserve these photographs and visual narratives. You take the text away from the advertisement in order to bring forward new information. You have this combination of not only locating the actual image, but you are also preserving that image and preserving a memory.”

Deborah Willis on the work of Hank Willis Thomas.

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New York Diary


Like other black artists – Robert Colescott is an early example – he tries to put black people into the overly white, male, Western art history. He starts from known ‘masterpieces’ in which saints, kings, generals or dandies are portrayed. He replaces the ‘models’ and puts young, beautiful, trendy black guys in it. His paintings are often big, always painted in an almost painfully realistic style, but they don’t have anything to do with reality. They portray an ideal reality, a lavishly decorated reality, a golden reality, a kitschy reality, the reality of a gay man who likes to go over the top, who likes to pose as the creator of a dream.

Rob Perrée on Kehinde Wiley in his ‘New York Diary’.
Wangechi Mutu, from the ‘A Fantastic Journey’ exhibition.

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Everyday Africa Project: photography on social media


Recently the Everyday Africa project celebrated their third anniversary. Featuring photographers living and working in Africa – ‘finding the extreme not nearly as prevalent as the familiar’ – the everyday. Started by Austin Merrill and Peter DiCampo with over a dozen photographers, they keep on adding talent and expanding.

Jorrit Dijkstra interviewed the latter about the ins-and-outs of African photography on social media.
Andrew Esiebo

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Phoebe Boswell


The historical memory underpinning ‘The Matter of Memory’ is that of British colonialism in Kenya. The story of the Mau Mau insurrection in 1952, its brutal suppression, and the subsequent state of emergency which lasted until 1962, is a site of complex and contested narratives beyond the scope of this text. But the Mau Mau is an inescapable, traumatic presence in the very fabric of Boswell’s installation.

Yvette Greslé on the installation ‘The Matter of Memory’ by Phoebe Boswell
The Matter of Memory, 2013-2014, installation.

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Edition 5, May 2015.