Magazine article Artforum International

Hank Willis Thomas

Magazine article Artforum International

Hank Willis Thomas

Article excerpt

1 TOYIN ODUTOLA Born in Nigeria and raised in Alabama, Odutola now lives in San Francisco, where she is completing her MFA at California College of the Arts. She will tell you that skin has a geography, and it is this territory that she explores through portraiture. Rendered in ballpoint pen, her surfaces are obsessive and intricate. Every stroke is drawn with care--thousands and thousands of lines create the almost completely saturated bodies of her dark figures.


2 WILLIAM SCOTT A self-taught Bay Area painter, Scott depicts members of his own community but reimagines them in new surroundings to present a complex yet earnest representation of problems in urban neighborhoods. There is a wonderful sense of humor, awareness, and activism in his colorful narrative portraits, maps, landscapes, and sculptures--qualities that are no doubt engendered by the environment of Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, where he makes his work. Rarely represented by commercial galleries, "outsider" artists such as Scott are too seldom integrated into mainstream dialogues about contemporary art.

3 NEGRO DIGEST/BLACK WORLD, EBONY, AND JET The ephemera of yesteryear can provide a new lens on history, and I prize my back issues of these magazines, which--founded by Johnson Publishing Company in 1942, 1945, and 1951, respectively--were among the first widely circulated American news and culture magazines edited by and for people of color. Their articles promoted intellectual discourse and a sense of normalcy and integrity in everyday black life, while their ads channeled the hopes and desires of a disenfranchised community. Johnson has generously made the archives of these titles available online for free via Google Books, but I still prefer the experience of holding the original objects in my hands, each issue a time capsule from another era.

4 I NGUYEN MANH HUNG I first became interested in Hung's work when we met at the Omi International Arts Center in upstate New York. But his paintings and installations, which speak to the complexities of modern life in Vietnam, assumed greater meaning for me after I visited him in Hanoi. There, he is part of a network of musicians, sculptors, painters, designers, and cultural activists who are defining what a Communist country looks and feels like in the twenty-first century. I was fascinated to learn about the ways in which his once underground community, as it's grown more established in recent years, has influenced the political system.

5 CHRIS MILK AND AARON KOBLIN As I've become increasingly invested in trans-media projects, Tm more and more excited to see what happens when technologists collaborate. This pair--Koblin, a data-imaging genius (and head of Data Arts at Google), and Milk, a filmmaker with a bizarre, beautiful mind--have designed some of the coolest projects in recent years. Among my favorites: The Wilderness Downtown, a Web-based music video (for the band Arcade Fire) that appears to take place in your own hometown, and the Johnny Cash Project, an animated, ever-changing, collective portrait of Cash by way of drawings made by visitors to the site. No matter what the content may be, from mass transit to pop music, Kolbin and Milk never fail to make us reconsider the ways we consume data.

6 KILUANJI KIA HENDA In his innovative use of photography and video, installation and performance, Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda deftly integrates mythology and historical artifacts. …

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