Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olumjimi: lecture and exhibition opening 9/26 in Bay Area

Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi’s WINTER IN AMERICA project will be on view at the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University from September 27 – December 13. This presentation will be the first time the stills and the video will be exhibited together. The artists will give a free public lecture on SEPTEMBER 26th from 6:30 – 7:30, followed by the opening reception for the exhibition from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.

From the event website:

“Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi’s collaborative Winter in America project consists of a stop-motion animation video and still photographs that function together to depict the 2000 robbery and murder of Thomas’ cousin Songha Thomas Willis. This tragic event is enacted by G.I. Joe action figures. Ironically, these toys were used by the artists when they were children to play out violent narratives. The narrative represented in Winter in America was developed from an interview with Todd Rose, the primary eye witness to the crime, as well as notes by Leslie Willis, the mother of the victim, taken during the murder trail of the perpetrators. This presentation will be the first time the Winter in America video and still photographs have been exhibited together. According to Willis, the project importantly includes both because, “Video carries the viewer through and still images allow the viewer to ponder.”

The resulting work is chillingly powerful—a dramatic statement about violence in African American communities. At the same time, the work directly critiques our culture’s relationship with violence—its prevalence in simulated forms in mass culture and its longstanding presence in the toys of our youth. Willis and Olujimi remind us that the packaging for G.I. Joe dolls identifies the toys as suitable for children ages five and up, even though all the figures are accessorized with guns. Making reference to their own personal relationships with the action figures, the artists reveal the role the toys play in “breeding a culture of violence in young boys, who are invited to author violent scenarios before they can even read.” Independent scholar and curator Carla Williams contributes: “Although this is specifically the story of young men of color, on both sides, and highly personal, this is ultimately a universal American tragedy, the inevitable and all-too-frequent by-product of a country hopped up on its own bullying bravado, blind to the consequences of its mad insistence on acquisition and dominance by any means necessary.”


The following week, Hank will make a three-city lecture tour in conjunction with his receiving the Aperture West Book Prize and the forthcoming release of his first monograph PITCH BLACKNESS:

The Aperture West Collaborative Series

October 1 at the Henry Art Museum (Seattle)

October 2 at the Hammer Museum, UCLA (Los Angeles)

October 3 at the San Francisco Art Institute, a PhotoAlliance Event (San Francisco)

Details to follow on this blog.


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