RG Insights: Hank Willis Thomas


Hank Willis Thomas is a Brooklyn-based conceptual artist, known for his visual depictions addressing issues of African-American identity in popular culture. His past works have imparted an urgent critique spotlighting the commodification of Black American identity through mixed media, video, photography and public art representations.


Unafraid to confront sensitive issues like police brutality, gun violence, colonialism and slavery, Hank Willis Thomas’ key works have embraced challenging undercurrents of racial exploitation to give prominence to ongoing injustices occupying the American cultural stream.



This year Willis teamed up with Chitose Abe of sacai to develop the messaging from his 2017 San Francisco art installation, ‘Love Over Rules’ into a collaborative collection. Inspired by themes of peace and unity over societal constraints, the collection portrays love as a radical act of coming together. Patterns and fabrics borrowed from Abe's design themes are pieced together, creating a capsule of thoughtfully curated pieces akin to Thomas’ mixed media artworks.
Fashion is a tool of communication and of self-expression. I was first drawn to the brand because of Chitose’s complex design language. I admire her creative vision of integrating streetwear and high fashion, as this dissolving of boundaries factors into my own artistic practice. Art, fashion, [and] design all have the ability to transcend cultural barriers.

- Hank Willis Thomas

Love Over Rules


Comprised of a rich selection of paisley, souvenir and wool-blended fabrics, the sacai SS21 collection debuts with a series of belted pants, patchwork overcoats and velvet collar summer shirts that are undeniably sacai in visual form. ​

Hank Willis Thomas’ sensibility is expressed through asymmetrical patchwork motifs, which demonstrate love’s ability to bring things that sit in opposition together. Divided segments of clashing fabric are quilted together harmoniously. A strong knowledge of craftsmanship is maintained by Abe throughout the release, leaving every garment with a characteristic vibrance.

To further create a unified message of empowerment, alongside the collection the duo released a film made in partnership with Albert Ignacio of Equator productions. Highlights from the SS21 collection are worn by a diverse array of models representing an even wider range of identities.

The collection is to honor and respect all people, and to also agree — love over rules, no matter what their race, culture or sexuality.

- Chitose Abe

Shop the 'Love Over Rules' collection from sacai SS21 now at Roden Gray.

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Source links:

britannica.com/art/naive-art
https://davidcharlesfox.com/naive-art-brighter-reality/
https://www.wikiart.org/en/henri-rousseau
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snake_Charmer_(Rousseau)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023447/