Human Interest
Audio Guide Playlist

Listen to commentary by artists and scholars on selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, including Thelma Golden, K8 Hardy, Byron Kim, Deana Lawson, and Joan Semmel.

Narrator: The canvases on view here are, in a sense, “portraits” of artists in the Whitney’s permanent collection.

Byron Kim: Each one is meant to represent an actual person's skin color.

Narrator: Byron Kim.

Byron Kim: They're arranged on the wall in alphabetical order from left to right by first name. Synecdoche, the title of the piece, the work, the painting, is a term of grammar that is a metaphor which means a part standing for the whole. Such as, in the Navy when they say, "All hands on deck." They don't literally mean just the sailor's hands, they mean the whole person. So, in this case, the skin color is standing for the person.

In my mind originally, it just was a way to make a modernist painting or a modern looking painting and give it some other kind of meaning. But it quickly came to mean something having to do with race and possibly even race relations in this country, which isn’t exactly what I meant. But it wasn’t something that I denied once it was noticed.
Narrator: To hear Kim reflect further on the reactions to his work, please tap your screen.

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