August 26, 2023 is the final day to head to Pace Gallery to enjoy the work of Hank Willis Thomas in his solo exhibition titled I’ve Known Rivers. This marks the artist’s first-ever presentation with the gallery. This debut exhibition showcases a selection of new retroreflective artworks. These works reveal latent images depending on lighting and the perspective of the viewer. Thomas created this new series this year.
PACE Gallery, Hank Willis Thomas
Over the last ten years, Thomas has mastered the retroreflective medium, creating mixed media works that reveal two distinct scenes transfigured by both ambient and flash lighting.
The exhibition’s title, I’ve Known Rivers, references Langston Hughes’s poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers, first published in The Crisis magazine in July 1921. Then a little-known writer, Hughes would later become an icon of the Harlem Renaissance. Water is also a central subject in both this poem and Thomas’s show in LA. Therefore it is positioned as a visual anchor, a point of entry, a mover of people, a container of ancient knowledge. The journey described in Hughes’s poem, like Thomas’s work, is not linear or easily traced. Instead, readers of the poem and viewers of Thomas’s art are invited to investigate details and travel to unexpected places.
The Embrace (2023), a large-scale bronze sculpture is on view at the Boston Common in January 2023. This permanent memorial is inspired by an archival photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, embracing after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Additionally The Embrace can be understood as an ode to collaboration, love, and equality. It further reflects Thomas’s ongoing inquiries into economic and racial justice. Thomas’s reconfiguration of a two-dimensional photograph into a large- scale, three-dimensional monument crystallizes a single moment in time. Thus the artwork speaks to the importance of gesture, conviviality, and community.
Additionally, Thomas will unveil (2024) two new permanent installations on the East and West entrances of the new Judkins Park Station in Seattle. These public works center on the life and legacy of musical icon Jimi Hendrix, whose hometown was Seattle. His forthcoming public art projects also include With These Hands: A Memorial to Honor the Enslaved and Exploited, set to open at Davidson College in North Carolina in 2025.
On view: July 15, 2023 – August 26, 2023
What: I’ve Known Rivers, Hank Willis Thomas
Where: Pace Gallery, 1201 South La Brea Avenue, LA,
Where: August 26, 2023, 10:00am – 6:00pm
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