This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

13Oct/15

HANK WILLIS THOMAS: THE TRUTH IS I SEE YOU

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Hank Willis Thomas installation in MetroTech Commons explores different aspects of truth around the world (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

MetroTech Commons, Brooklyn
The Truth Booth: Thursday, October 15, free, 12 noon - 8:00 pm
Fall Talks: The New School, Wednesday, October 21, $10, 6:30
Installation continues through June 3, 2016
publicartfund.org
the truth is i see you slideshow

Throughout his career, Brooklyn-based visual artist Hank Willis Thomas has attempted to uncover the truth while investigating race, popular culture, gender, branding, and commodification. In works such as “B®ANDED,” “Unbranded,” “What Goes without Saying,” and “All Things Being Equal . . . ,” Thomas strips away the surface of media and advertising to get to the heart of black identity in America. For his latest work, the Public Art Fund project “The Truth Is I See You,” Thomas has filled the main walkway in MetroTech Commons with twenty-two speech bubbles of varying sizes, mounted near the tops of lampposts, each a quote about truth, in English on one side and in a foreign language spoken in Brooklyn on the other. Each bubble is accompanied by a placard that gives the translation and pronunciation of the phrase in the second language, all of which are from a poem written together by Thomas and ©ause Collective cofounder Ryan Alexiev: “The truth is I love you / The truth is I know you /The truth is I see you / The truth is I hear you / The truth is I feel you / The truth is I respect you / The truth is I follow you / The truth is I choose you / The truth is I remember you / The truth is I remind you / The truth is I liberate you / The truth is I believe you / The truth is I am you / The truth is I understand you / The truth is I need you / The truth is I miss you / The truth is I reflect you / The truth is I accept you / The truth is I trust you / The truth is I support you / The truth is I balance you / The truth is I welcome you.”

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Visitors will be able to share their own thoughts on truth on October 15 in MetroTech Commons (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Among the languages are Swahili, Italian, French, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Yiddish, Vietnamese, and Hebrew. In the center of the path is a video monitor playing “In Search of the Truth,” consisting of clips of various people finishing the statement “The truth is . . .” that they recorded in the large, inflatable “Truth Booth,” a collaboration between Thomas, Alexiev, and Jim Ricks of the ©ause Collective that has been traveling around the world, stopping in Afghanistan, Ireland, and South Africa as well as the U.S. so far. Meanwhile, across the commons, a metal tree with bare branches holds aloft a half dozen cushiony speech bubbles that spell out “The truth is I love you,” along with question marks. “The Truth Is I See You” makes a powerful statement about inclusion, referencing America’s supposed melting pot, particularly in a borough containing so many different ethnicities. On October 15 from 12 noon to 8:00, “The Truth Booth” will be in MetroTech Commons, where visitors are invited to add their own thoughts about truth. Thomas also has contributed to the Public Art Fund group show “Image Objects” in City Hall Park (through November 20); his sculpture, “Liberty,” features a purple arm spinning a basketball atop a plinth. And on October 21, Thomas will be at the New School for a Public Art Fund Talk as part of the “Public Context, Private Meaning” series. (Thomas can also be seen in Thomas Allen Harris’s 2014 documentary, Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, based on the book Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present by his mother, Deborah Willis.)

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