‘We live in the “Land of the Free”, which also happens to be the place that imprisons more people than anywhere else in the world’, observes artist Hank Willis Thomas. Taking its title from Another Justice, a 2021 campaign by For Freedoms, the arts-collective that Thomas co-founded, the artist’s new solo exhibition at Los Angeles gallery Kayne Griffin, represents Thomas’ personal reckoning with the idea of America as a place where justice is possible.
Speaking from his studio in Brooklyn, Thomas reflects on how his upbringing in a military family during what he describes as the ‘Ra-Ra, Americana and G.I. Joe’ 1980’s affected his personal relationship to the iconography of the American flag. The artist highlights one particular work in the show, America, 2021—a labyrinth created from the red stripes of the American flag. Symbolising the complex, sometimes beautiful, maze-like processes one must go through to navigate life in the United States itself, the work is one of many that play with the striking similarities between the bars adorning the flag and those found in a prison cell. This process of contending, in the artist’s words, with his sense of patriotism and discontent, has produced a body of work that probes the literal and figurative fabric of his nation, ‘which begins with the flag but of course continues into the people and our mindsets.’
‘Hank Willis Thomas: Another Justice. Divided We Stand.’ is on show at Kayne Griffin, Los Angeles from November 12, 2021 until January 8, 2022