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Lew Thomas


1971 (printed 2014)

Gelatin silver print
12.5 x 15.5 in. (31.75 x 39.37 cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

Conceptual artist Lew Thomas creates photographs that emphasize the relationship between words and the embodiment of language as a construct while utilizing the medium of photography. As a child, Thomas developed a love of language and literature, which stood as an inspiration for his art. The vertical diptych, Black and White, was a pivotal piece for the artist, created following the birth of his daughter. It shows his interest in juxtapositions - both of words and colors, subversion of meaning through context and material.

Thomas attended the University of San Francisco, graduating in 1960 with a degree in English Literature. He then managed the Patrons of Art and Music Bookshop, where he first became interested in both language structuralism and photography. There he interacted with literary masters and artists alike, among which he developed a relationship with Joe Schopplein, a photographer for the de Young Museum. Schopplein taught Thomas how to shoot and print photographs, unknowingly launching him into his career as an artist. Thomas was also an influential publisher. Forming a link between language and photography, Thomas began creating work that represented the dichotomy between art, words, and the social world.

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