Things that happen in the newspaper: tears, anguish, fire, crashes, people checking their watches. The cultural tropes of daily print media are never so apparent as in the work of Jonathan Hernández, artist and subject of the most recent installment of Detroit Affinities, a piece of programming at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit made possible by a $30,000 grant from Knight Foundation.
Hernández began this collection of works, titled “Vulnerabilia,” more than a decade ago, clipping and saving print images from his daily newspaper and eventually grouping them into collections according to subject. What emerges are not just the predictably dramatic moments, like plane crashes or natural disasters, but the repetition of exceedingly mundane gestures—people sitting in cars, for example. This paints a portrait of daily life in terms of high tragedy, but also daily drama—people with eyes closed in pain or reflection, people wiping their faces, people covering their faces with their hands. Like any collection, repeated motifs have an inherent power, but the fact that this is a collection of spontaneous human gestures and experiences gives it gravitas and underscores our basic human vulnerability, as the title would suggest.