Monday, September 20, 2010
"Branded Head", 2003, Lambda photograph
(Hank Willis Thomas)
Contemporary artist Hank Willis Thomas is notorious in re-assigning new meanings to familiar pop cultural icons. As in this 2003 example, "The Branded Head", the Nike sign is immediately associated with the NBA franchise that features mostly commercial products such as basketball and sneakers. However putting this classic signature on a black head instead of a basketball or sneakers instantly changes its connotations, and symbolism becomes more potent. With this new perspective it seems to connote this sense that the black body is a sort of commodity even alluding to chattel slavery. It could also be a critique on the sports industry and how black men are valued in today's society. This new association gives it a new meaning that is very provocative. The Nike emblem now has a very loaded feel due to this slight manipulation by artist. With this situation I saw the correlation between what we were doing on our current assignment which was simply to find innovative ways to re-interpret ordinary letters and numbers in an abstract way. And as a class we have discovered that just a slight change in a letter's direction or the overlapping of it obscures its original meaning and physical look.