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CULTURE

Artist Hank Willis Thomas + Summit at Sea's Political Art

CULTURE

Artist Hank Willis Thomas + Summit at Sea's Political Art

Summit Series commissions a politically-charged photo and video site-specific experience

by Josh Rubin
on 07 November 2016

We are in the lead up to one of the most divisive elections in history, and once again Florida happens to be one of the most divided states. It's there, situated around both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rallies, one will find a mobile video and photo project by NYC-based artist Hank Willis Thomas—founder of the first ever artist run Super PAC, For Freedoms. Engaging with the already heightened climate, the work challenges those who catch it to take one moment to think deeper, step beyond the jargon and ask yourself what matters most to you. This piece also happens to have been commissioned by Summit Series and unveiled just days before their final Summit at Sea excursion. It's a commitment to art as an important vocalization of all our fears this season.

According to Thomas, in the midst of politically-motivated travels, he shares that he "co-founded this super PAC with Eric Gottesman. The mission was to put art and critical thinking into political thinking and discourse." Beyond the piece for Summit in Miami, he explains that "We do any number of things including engagement events, billboards, and town halls [like the one Thomas spearheaded in Cleveland this weekend]. Summit approached us about collaborating and doing something during election season. We decided we would do a collaboration via mobile billboard with a number of artists." Roughly 20 artists are involved, included many CH favorites like Trevor Paglen and Carrie Mae Weems. Their unified impact is undeniable.

In essence, Thomas acted like an art director—along with Wyatt Gallery—overseeing different "ads" produced by all the artists and designers involved. The team at Summut has been driving it between Trump and Hillary rallies and different events in South Florida, such as the Trump rally last week pictured here which garnered a range of responses from attendees and passer-bys alike.

"The message we want to convey is that nothing is simple," he continues. "Things are complicated. I say that because there is not a singular purpose or art equation or agenda with the work. We are just trying to provide a space or a new way of engaging with political speech. It's about bringing fine artists to the conversation." Therein lies a greater strength: this hint at bipartisan communication with dialogue the actual goal.

Calling this Presidential election year unlike anything we’ve seen before is a grandiose understatement. While we brace for the result we find solace in the controversies as motivators for artists like Thomas who are opening the eyes and minds of the population at large to the bigger picture at hand.

Images (in order of appearance) by Zoe Buckman, courtesy of For Freedoms; Rosa White and Caran Hartsfield, courtesy of For Freedoms; Albert James Ignacio, courtesy of For Freedoms; Courtesy of For Freedoms; Jon Santos, courtesy of For Freedoms

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