Join us for a conversation with Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, cofounders of the artist collective For Freedoms, and their collaborators Emily Shur and Wyatt Gallery, on the role of art and visual representation in American civic life. The group will discuss the ICP Museum exhibition For Freedoms: Where Do We Go From Here? and the 50 State Initiative, a nationwide project that orchestrated community happenings and actions across the country.
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Eric Gottesman is an artist who makes images and social interventions that address themes of nationalism, migration, conflict, structural violence, colonialism, and intimate relations. Frequently engaging communities in critical self-expression, Gottesman’s projects have been shown at health conferences, in government buildings, on indigenous reserves, and in public space as well as at museums like MoMA/PS1, MFA Boston, the Cornell Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Center of Photography, MoCA Cleveland, and the Addison Gallery of American Art. Sudden Flowers, his decade-long collaborative project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, resulted in temporary street installations and a collective monograph. Gottesman is a Creative Capital Artist, a Fulbright Fellow, an Artadia awardee, and a co-founder of For Freedoms, an initiative for art and civic engagement that won a 2017 Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography. Recently for the year of 2018, Artsy deemed Gottesman one of the most influential individuals in visual culture. His translation of Ethiopian writer Baalu Girma’s banned novel, Oromaye, was published in Hayden’s Ferry Review. He is an assistant professor of art at SUNY-Purchase College.
Emily Shur was born in New York City to an auditorium full of nursing students and grew up in Houston, Texas. She attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University with a major in photography and graduated with the Artist Award for Creative Excellence. Shur’s work has exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, London's National Portrait Gallery, and as part of Humble Art's 31 Women in Art Photography group show. Her images have been published in various collections, including Milk and Honey: Contemporary Art in California, Photographers' Sketchbooks, and eight editions of American Photography. In the fall of 2017, Kehrer Verlag published Emily's first monograph, Super Extra Natural!, which chronicled twelve years of travels in Japan. Shur is currently based in Los Angeles.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work is included in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms, an artist-run initiative for art and civic engagement. In 2017, For Freedoms was awarded the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is also a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2018), Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), the Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.
Wyatt Gallery (b. 1975) is a Philadelphia native and past adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his BFA from NYU Tisch School of The Arts in 1997 and is the recipient of various awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship to Trinidad, PDN Magazine’s top 30, and the International Center of Photography’s 2017 Infinity Award. He has published four books and is in numerous public and private collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the George Eastman House, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Worcester Art Museum, Comcast, Twitter, and American Express. Gallery’s work has been reviewed in the New Yorker and featured in Esquire, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, the New York Times, and on Oprah’s OWN Network, among others. His past books Tent Life: Haiti and #SANDY have successfully raised over $60,000 to support communities affected by natural disasters. Recently, Gallery published Jewish Treasures of The Caribbean: The Legacy of Judaism in the New World, of which the coinciding exhibition is traveling throughout North America and the Caribbean. Gallery Lives between New York City and Trinidad & Tobago, and is represented by Foley Gallery and Redux Pictures in New York City.
About For Freedoms
Founded in 2016 by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, For Freedoms is a platform for creative civic engagement, discourse, and direct action. Inspired by American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—For Freedoms’ exhibitions, installations, and public programs use art to deepen public discussions on civic issues and core values, and to advocate for equality, dialogue, and civic participation. As a nexus between art, politics, commerce, and education, For Freedoms aims to inject anti-partisan, critical thinking that fine art requires into the political landscape through programming, exhibitions, and public artworks. In 2018, For Freedoms launched the 50 State Initiative: the largest creative collaboration in US history.