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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:41

Video transcript

You see the one that says Ebony on the bottom right? It's got the JET magazines. Oh, it's not JET magazines. It's buttons, but here's the JET magazines, the magazines that I used to do the original Unbranded series. Looking at an advertisement from a certain period of time is like hopping into a time machine because the only way that you can really understand it is to go back into the mindset of that time. Here's Maya Rudolph. Her father, Dick Rudolph, was married to Minnie Ripperton, a famous African American. Interracial marriage wasn't even legal in a lot of the United States when this picture was taken. Real ads are fascinating to me because they speak to large groups of imaginary people. African American women, who were the poorest demographic by and large, are wearing like haute couture. Advertising plays a huge role in our notion of how we see ourselves and how we see other people. We say, “You can't judge a book by its cover,” but then we go about training everyone to judge books by their covers, and advertising relies on prejudice. These kinds of people care about these kinds of issues, so we will speak to them in this kind of way. I was doing a project called Branded where I was making images that looked like ads, but making them as a commentary on the present moment in history. The way the Unbranded project started is I just thought by removing all the text and logos, you could see what's really being sold. This is one of the pictures from 1987, and when I unbranded it, it starts to be a little bit more curious about what's really for sale in this image. It's funny looking at the difference in the printing styles because I must have gotten it from a different 1987 magazine. As an African American male, I was always conflicted with the monolithic images that society was creating. There's a lot of humor in there for me particularly because it's like I have a crystal ball. I can look into the future of the people who made these ads. To me, sometimes the text is as interesting, if not more, than the pictures. But as I said, it distracts you from what's really for sale. And then there's irony, “What makes OJ run?” All you do is just look around. That's what to me is like the amazing experience. Oh my God! –So can you see what I see? –No. I feel it's important that we take responsibility in actually minding and looking at the images that our society is creating so we can really get a broader perspective of our time. Do you see this one over here? –Hold it up? –Yeah you can just... Ah, wow! By looking at ads, which are seen as more objective than an individual artist's work, no single person can take responsibility for an ad. There's an art director, there's a photographer, but it really comes as consensus because there's focus groups that are telling them “This is what we want to see.” You can tell what era an advertisement is from because it reflects something of that moment that is bigger –than an image. –Right. Looking at the ads from these things is so fascinating because ads are about hopes and dreams, but look at this one, you know, like... that message.