Carolina Arts logo

Feature Articles

July 2011

Duke University in Durhan, NC, Features Works by Jonathan Hyman

Duke University in Durham, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Flesh & Metal, Bodies & Buildings - Works from Jonathan Hyman’s Archive of 9/11 Vernacular Memorials, on view in the Special Collections Gallery at the William R. Perkins Library through Oct. 16, 2011. The exhibition was curated by Professor Pedro Lasch, of the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, at Duke University.

Over the last ten years, New York-based photographer Jonathan Hyman has been documenting vernacular artwork created by Americans on the side of the road and in public places in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His images depict a range of subjects and artistic styles - murals painted by graffiti artists, farmhouses painted with American flags, and firefighters with elaborate memorial tattoos.

This exhibition brings together a small selection of photographs from Hyman’s vast documentation of US vernacular 9/11 memorials.

Lasch noted, “As a guest curator and fellow artist working on this topic, I decided to select works that elucidate the relationship between the iconic metal buildings and the human body. In this show, the World Trade Center (WTC) appears transfigured in murals on the surface of other buildings, reincarnated in assemblages of scraps and remains, and inscribed on the very skin of those who mourn and remember.”

According to Lasch, Hyman’s photographs “capture largely impermanent, spontaneous expressions created and encountered by people in their everyday lives.”

As a body of work, Hyman’s archive constitutes a complex process of artistic, social, and political mediation. Having earned an MFA in painting in addition to his photographic training, and counting artists like Leon Golub among his friends and mentors, Hyman is no stranger to the non-photographic media that appear framed within his pictures. His work bridges the medium of documentary photography with painting, sculpture, tattooing, and other media employed by hundreds of individuals who created the WTC memorials represented in their specific social contexts. Unlike much other work produced and compiled around 9/11/2001, Hyman’s archive enables a multi-layered dialogue about issues that go far beyond this specific subject, such as public and private memory, violence, corporate spectacle and vernacular aesthetics, art and social class, race and sexuality, patriotism and nationalism.

Lasch also offers, “Many of the image producers involved in this archive’s complex assemblage do not consider themselves artists, but all are committed to the importance of remembering 9/11 through material representations that exceed language, writing, and the ubiquitous electronic media associated with the video loops of the crashing and smoking Towers. As we enter the second decade after the tragedy of 2001 and its military responses, we may also reestablish the value of material culture and memory. Having already disappeared as physical objects, most of the memorials documented by Hyman were also ignored by TV and other media of the digital age.”

“How are we to always remember, if we let the few archives representing these vernacular memorials disappear along with them?,” adds Lasch. “When those honoring their dead with tattoos are buried, and every mural has been painted over, what buildings and bodies will house their memory? The WTC attacks will surely never be forgotten, but without archives such as Hyman’s our collective memory will be shaped exclusively by the monotony of state monuments, and the generalizations of mass media.”

Produced by the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Flesh and Metal, Bodies and Buildings is part of a cycle of events commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11 at Duke University. A related reception, panel discussion, and talk including Jonathan Hyman and Pedro Lasch will be held on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, in the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listing, call the Library at 919/660-5968 or visit (


[ | July 2011 | Feature Articles | Carolina Arts Unleashed | Gallery Listings | Home | ]



Carolina Arts is published monthly by Shoestring Publishing Company, a subsidiary of PSMG, Inc. Copyright© 2011 by PSMG, Inc., which published Charleston Arts from July 1987 - Dec. 1994 and South Carolina Arts from Jan. 1995 - Dec. 1996. It also publishes Carolina Arts Online, Copyright© 2011 by PSMG, Inc. All rights reserved by PSMG, Inc. or by the authors of articles. Reproduction or use without written permission is strictly prohibited. Carolina Arts is available throughout North & South Carolina.