A skillful fusion of abstraction and representation in painting, Synecdoche is a potent statement about identity. Arranged in a grid, these monochrome panels replicate the skin color of twenty individuals that Byron Kim encountered at random on The University of Texas at Austin campus. As such, Synecdoche may playfully literalize a comment made by modernist painter Brice Marden, who once referred to the surfaces of his own monochromatic paintings as “skin.”

Synecdoche is an ongoing series of more than 410 individual panels that Kim began in 1991 and has continued to the present day. Borrowed from literary criticism, the term “synecdoche” refers to a figure of speech in which a part represents a whole. Here the color of each panel stands in for the individual sitter, while all of the panels together represent the university population. Yet in this context, the work points to the futility—the absurdity even—of defining human beings by their skin color alone.