Hank Willis Thomas, ‘Art Imitates Ads/  Imitates Life’, 2013, Public Art Fund Benefit Auction 2015

Estimated value: $9,000

Advertising and its influence on issues of class, race, and culture are consistent themes in the work of the conceptual artist and photographer Hank Willis Thomas. This lenticular print captures the subtle and pernicious tendency of advertising to reinforce false premises and prejudices.

About Hank Willis Thomas

Conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas uses photography to explore issues of identity, history, race, and class. Inspired by the works of Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and his mother, photographer Deborah Willis, he employs language and familiar imagery to address issues that are often overlooked in our pop culture-obsessed, consumerist culture. Appropriated print advertisements from 1968—a landmark year in the Civil Rights Movement—are stripped of their context to open up questions of cultural stereotypes and the way the media perpetuates them, while in the series “Branded” he inverts the work, adding contemporary ad copy to provocative images. “In recent years I have approached my art practice assuming the role of a visual culture archaeologist,” Thomas has said. “I am interested in the ways that popular imagery informs how people perceive themselves and others around the world.”

American, b. 1976, Plainfield, New Jersey, based in New York, New York