Hank Willis Thomas
In the photographic series Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America (2005–08), Hank Willis Thomas appropriated 82 commercial advertisements, removing logos and the accompanying text to “unbrand” and lay bare the ad’s potent imagery. Typically intended to entice a growing African American middle class, the ads from 1968 to 2008 represent an evolving archive of corporate machinations and socioeconomic stereotypes from the 40-year period following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The ads drew attention to the products for sale whereas Thomas’s manipulations highlight the underlying cynicism and simplification of black culture in the corporate eye. Objectification of the black body, obsession with the cult of celebrity, and a projected authenticity—despite the fundamental inauthenticity of the ads themselves—are instead revealed and retitled with a wry catchphrase.