Synecdoche and Metonymy

In their work, Byron Kim and Gary Simmons represent people without showing their whole physical presence, but they do it in different ways. Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole or vice versa. For example, in Synecdoche [Whitney Artists], 1999?2001, Kim represents artists in the Whitney’s collection by their skin color. Metonymy is a figure of speech in which something is called by a name that is associated with it in meaning, but not its own name.For example the phrase “let me give you a hand” is a metonymy for “let me help you.” In Lineup, Gary Simmons uses visual metonymy by representing young men in a police lineup with eight empty pairs of sneakers.

a.Ask your students to discuss and compare these works by Gary Simmons and Byron Kim.

How are they both parts that stand for the whole?

How do they expose and critique racism and stereotypes?

b. Ask students to think about the ways in which they have been been stereotyped. What did they do to address or challenge this stereotyping? Ask students to discuss their stereotypes with the class or write a journal entry about it.

c. Ask students to use synecdoche or metonymy to represent themselves in a self-portrait. Consider which part of themselves would challenge the stereotype and create a meaningful representation of themselves.

What media or materials would they use? Why?

What would they want to communicate about who they are? On the outside? On the inside?

What objects or images would they include?

How could they represent something about themselves that people can’t see?

d. View and discuss students’ self-portraits. What does the synecdoche or metonymy communicate about their identities?

Gary Simmons, _Lineup_, 1993. Acrylic on wood with gold plated basketball shoes, 114 × 216 × 18 in. (289.6 × 548.6 × 45.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Brown Foundation Inc. 93.65a–p © Gary Simmons