Please register in advance for your free tickets. Learn More


Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

September 4, 2020–November 8, 2020

Western & Southern Galleries, Thomas R. Schiff Gallery and Balcony (Galleries 232, 233, 234 and 235)

Press Release | Purchase Tickets | Free for members 

Friends of Photography | Friends of Contemporary Art | Friends of African American Art

The Cincinnati Art Museum is honored to present the first major retrospective of leading contemporary artist Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976). Thomas’s bold, thoughtful, and deeply moving artwork asks us to see and challenge systems of inequality that are woven into the fabric of contemporary life, leaving no doubt that art is an essential tool in ongoing struggle for social justice. Spanning nearly twenty-five years of Thomas’s exploration of everyday imagery and its consequences, All Things Being Equal… demands that we look critically at our own society while reminding us that we have the power to speak, listen, hope, and hold fast to joy.

The nearly 100 artworks in the exhibition include sculptures and multi-media works, monumental textile works constructed from reclaimed prison uniforms and athletic jerseys, photographs, interactive video installations and public art projects. As a whole, All Things Being Equal… reflects themes Thomas has examined throughout his career, such as the human toll of gun violence, the impact of corporate branding, the roots and uses of notions of gender and race, interconnected worldwide struggle for liberty and equality, and the importance of participation—in experiences of art as well as in broader civic life. The exhibition also highlights Thomas’s mining of personal and public archives, and his ability to reframe texts, images and materials to connect historical moments of resistance to our lives today.

The museum has been privileged to work with volunteer thinkers, activists and artists from our vibrant city to shape the way All Things Being Equal… is realized in Cincinnati. The voices of Community Committee members appear in the exhibition galleries and have shaped project extensions including an online platform called the Workshop, and public programs within and beyond the museum.

Watch this space for further information about the Community Committee and its activities, which continue to evolve in response to events of 2020.

Watch this space for further information about the Workshop, a digital platform that creates new space for responses, contexts and questions inspired by Thomas’s artwork.

The Workshop will be accessible in the exhibition galleries and from any web-connected device.

Watch this space for information about public programs in development with the Community Committee. Inspired by Thomas’s practice, programs will seek to create opportunities for raising voices, listening, and working toward positive change.

Co-published by Aperture and Portland Art Museum, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… presents a survey of the artist’s prolific and extraordinary interdisciplinary career, with a particular focus on his work’s relationship to the photographic image and to issues of representation and perception. This extensive presentation of Thomas’s work contextualizes the material with incisive essays from Portland Art Museum curators Julia Dolan and Sara Krajewski and art historian Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, and an in-depth interview between art historian Kellie Jones and the artist.

Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976, Plainfield, NJ; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.

His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including the International Center of Photography, New York; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands.

Solo exhibitions of his work have been featured at institutions including Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, AK; SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, and the African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA, among others.

Major group exhibitions of his work include the 2017 inaugural show at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa; P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Zacheta National Museum of Art, Poland; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA, and the 2006 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, Orange County, CA.

Thomas’s work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), The Writing on the Wall, and For Freedoms. In 2017, For Freedoms was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), The Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), Aperture West Book Prize (2008), Renew Media Arts Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation (2007), and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Award (2006). He is also a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York.

Thomas holds a B.F.A. from New York University, New York, NY (1998) and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2004). He received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, MD and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, Portland, ME in 2017.

In 2019, Thomas unveiled his permanent work Unity in Brooklyn, NY. In 2017, Love Over Rules permanent neon was unveiled in San Francisco, CA and All Power to All People in Opa Locka, FL.

Recent projects include All Li es Matter, a 5-story installation at Human Rights Campaign, Washington, D.C. (with For Freedoms, unveiled June 19, 2020), and The Writing on the Wall, in which essays, poems and letters by incarcerated people are projected onto the façade of the US Justice Department Building (part of an ongoing series, with Dr. Baz Dreisinger and students of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, June 11, 2020). The Embrace, Thomas’s permanent sculpture memorializing Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King in Boston, MA (with MASS Design Group) is forthcoming.


Organized by the Portland Art Museum, Oregon, with major support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Henry Luce Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Collins Foundation.



Presented by:




Generously supported by:

Eric and Jan-Michele Kearney