Everyone knows a picture says a thousand words, but an ad campaign needs both. Take away the text and what is left often shows how scarily normal cultural stereotypes have become to us.
Following on from his exhibition Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968 - 2008—which consisted of 82 magazine ads targeted at a black audience or which featured black subjects with all text and logos removed—American artist Hank Willis Thomas is opening a new exhibition, Unbranded: A Century of White Women, 1915 - 2015, today. The show, his fifth solo exhibition, will take place at New York's Jack Shainman Gallery. Instead of targeting 100 years of racial generalizations, it explores 100 years of gender ideals through the power of advertising.
Removing text from the images lays bare the women in them. One's underwear is pulled in five different directions by fully clothed men. One caged model with a black eye judges her own reflection. Remember the cigarette ad which stated "Blow it in her face and she'll follow you anywhere"? That one's pretty bad even with the caption. Advertisements plug products by selling us dreams, but "unbrand" them and the subtext is crystal clear. Over the past 100 years, the white woman has been packed as innocent, pure and privileged but at the same time, completely marginalized.
Scroll down and let the pictures speak for themselves…
Can't claim all the credit, 1927/2015
Come out of the Bone Age, darling..., 1955/2015
The common enemy, 1941/2015
Chained to Perfection, 1965
Will not go dull and lifeless, 1953/2015
Only women can know how it feels, 1988/2015
Unbranded: A Century of White Women, 1915 - 2015 is open April 10 - May 23.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.