New public art is coming to Memphis

Two sculptures by internationally-renowned artist Hank Willis Thomas will be exhibited in Fourth Bluff Park on Memphis’ riverfront beginning April 17.

George Abbott
Mar 5, 2020 · 3 min read

Thomas, a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, media and popular culture, is a recipient of the 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States and across the world. The exhibition is made possible by Tri-Star Arts, Memphis River Parks Partnership and Memphis Greenspace.

Hank Willis Thomas, Harriet and Annie (Capri), 2018. © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

The two sculptures to be exhibited in Memphis, Ernest and Ruth and Harriet and Annie (Capri), are comic-book-inspired speech bubbles that also serve as benches and platforms for dialogue. Made of bright colors and rolled steel, the benches create spaces to reflect on the vibrancy of the surrounding environment, while providing a place of introspection, contemplation, and conversation. The sculptures are intended to enhance public spaces as a portal to take pause and consider who we are, what we value, where we come from, and where we are going.

Hank Willis Thomas, Ernest and Ruth, 2015. © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

This installation is curated by Tri-Star Arts Co-Executive Director Brian R. Jobe with Ruby Zielinski of Memphis River Parks Partnership as part of Tri-Star Arts annual exhibition program.

“It is exciting to welcome Hank to Memphis and to the riverfront. We’re grateful to have a partner like Tri-Star Arts that creates opportunities for us to bring nationally-renowned work to Memphis,” said Zielinski. “We’re excited for Memphians to rediscover this park as a new and refreshed community space.”

Fourth Bluff Park, previously Memphis Park, re-opened in December 2019 following a remake that removed all remnants of the park’s Confederate history, added new furniture, lighting and pathways and more than 30 new trees.

The improvements to the park were funded by the Reimagining the Civic Commons grant, supported nationally by Kresge, JPB Knight, JPB, Kresge and Rockefeller Foundations and locally by Hyde Family Foundation and the City of Memphis.

The opening event for the Hank Willis Thomas pieces will be on Friday April 17th from 5.30 to 7.30 PM and is free and open to the public. Follow Memphis River Parks Partnership on Facebook for more updates.

ABOUT HANK WILLIS THOMAS. Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976) examines popular culture, media, and branding to reveal the effect of power structures on the way we interpret the world around us, and how art can raise awareness in the ongoing struggle for social justice and civil rights. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including the International Center of Photography, New York, NY; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong; the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands, among others.

ABOUT TRI-STAR ARTS. Tri-Star Arts serves Tennessee by spotlighting and growing the contemporary visual art scenes in each region of the state while fostering a unified state-wide art scene. Their programs promote art dialogue between the different cities in the state, and between the state and the nation.

ABOUT FOURTH BLUFF PARK. Fourth Bluff Park is managed by the Memphis River Parks Partnership in agreement with Memphis Greenspace and located at 27 N Front Street, Memphis, Tennessee 38013

ABOUT THE MEMPHIS RIVER PARKS PARTNERSHIP. The Memphis River Parks Partnership is a 501(c)3 that works with and for the people of Memphis to trigger the transformative power of our river. For more information, visit


Memphis River Parks Partnership works with and for the…

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