Hank Willis Thomas’s billboard show probes the power of the pictorial “sell.”
HANK WILLIS THOMAS at Front and Spadina billboards, to May 31. Rating: NNN
Hank Willis Thomas is a terrific artist; his show at last year's Contact explored race in deft, uncommon ways. This year, his public installation setting - an empty lot amid condo towers - seems to dilute the power of his work. Granted, Thomas's images of people of colour, pulled from different eras and spread over 16 small billboards, speak well to the shifting, ambiguous ways race is represented.
Productive tension is also generated between personal and commercial portraits, the purpose of both being remembrance. Thomas's genius partly lies in setting up ad-style images sans punchline, heightening the viewer's awareness of the pictorial "sell."
Though density is also (sadly) missing, this installation's still worth an inquiring look.