Situated across from City Hall on Thomas Paine Plaza, Hank Willis Thomas’ All Power to All People is a public art intervention around identity and representation in Philadelphia. Thomas’ Afro pick sculpture stands at eight feet tall and weighs close to 800 pounds. The Afro pick, as Thomas notes, “exists today as many things to different people: it is worn as adornment, a political emblem, and signature of collective identity. The Afro pick continues to develop itself as a testament to innovation.” The temporary monument is placed here as a symbol and site, as the artist adds, “to highlight ideas related to community, strength, perseverance, comradeship, and resistance to oppression.” Thomas’ work recalls the scale of Pop artist Claes Oldenburg’s monumental everyday objects, such as the Clothespin and Paint Torch, while marking the lack of commemorative statues that address equal justice and belonging.
Location: Site 01: City Hall
Lab Hours: Closed
1pm – 4pm
Aluminum and stainless steel
The City of Philadelphia and the Department of Public Property
This sculpture is an enlarged Afro pick with a power fist cast in aluminum and spray coated in high gloss black with stainless steel teeth. It is approximately eight feet tall and will be supported by a base (not visible above ground) at a slight tilt. The piece should not weigh more than 800 pounds.
The origin of the Afro pick dates back to the time of ancient Egyptians as an article of status and cultural belonging. The clenched black fist comb in particular is associated with the 1970s Black Power Movement. As an accessory of a hairstyle, it represented counterculture and civil rights during one of the most important eras of American history. It exists today as many things to different people; it is worn as adornment, a political emblem, and signature of collective identity. The Afro pick continues to develop itself as a testament to innovation.
This piece serves to highlight ideas related to community, strength, perseverance, comradeship, and resistance to oppression.
About the Artist
Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. Thomas’ monograph, Pitch Blackness, was published by Aperture. He has exhibited throughout the US and abroad including, The International Center of Photography, Public Art Fund, The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Studio Museum in Harlem, Musée du quai Branly, and the Cleveland Museum of Art among others. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The High Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males and In Search Of The Truth, Cause Collective. In 2015 Thomas cofounded For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC. Thomas is a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Goodman Gallery in South Africa.
Banner: All Power to All People, Hank Willis Thomas. Aluminum and stainless steel. City Hall/Thomas Paine Plaza. Photo: Conrad Benner/Streets Dept.