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Philly Just Installed an Afro Pick Next to the Rizzo Statue

September 12, 2017

Y’all, I freaking LOVE this!

Today, artist Hank Willis Thomas installed an Afro pick sculpture that stands eight feet tall and weighs close to 800 pounds in Center City’s Thomas Paine Plaza, mere feet from the disputed Frank Rizzo statue. Hank’s installation was created for Monument Lab, a city-wide exhibition opening this Saturday, September 16th, that will display 20 temporary, artist-created “prototype monuments” across Philly. The exhibition’s goal is to explore how and why we build the monuments that we do, and how we can make the process of creating monuments more democratic and include the multitude of voices and histories our cities truly comprise. And as I announced this week, I believe so deeply in this exhibition that I’ve just joined its Curatorial Team.

Hank Willis Thomas’ installation is a public art intervention around identity and representation in Philadelphia. Titled All Power to All People, its placement is symbolic, the artist adds, “to highlight ideas related to community, strength, perseverance, comradeship, and resistance to oppression.”

Over the years, a handful of Philly street artists, including Ishknits in 2012 and Joe Boruchow in 2016, have created work that criticizes the fact that we even have a monument to Frank Rizzo, easily the most divisive local politician in Philadelphia’s modern history. Let alone the fact that we have a statue to Rizzo in the heart of our city, just steps away from City Hall.

While today’s installation is not a direct call for its removal, Hank Willis Thomas’ temporary monument can stand as a resistance to the oppression that the Rizzo statue represents to so many Philadelphians.

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