Pieter Hugo / La Cucaracha

New work in Mexico

When Pieter told me that during 2018 he would make a few visits to Mexico for a new commission my mind raced forward to try and understand what form it would take and how it would integrate into his already complex practice.

As usual - I was too early. He said, ‘I don’t know what it is yet’ and cautioned me, ‘Let’s see how it goes’.

It is always a privilege to see work before it is something – to understand how an artist begins a new series might, these days, be a kind of extracurricular activity for an agent, but it is one that keeps me interested in doing this job at all.

So, at some point early in the process when I saw the first wide edit from his first trip, I got a glimpse of its potential and knew immediately it was going to become significant work.

'La Cucaracha' is the title of a song about a cockroach whose battle to stay alive with an amputated limb forms the basis of a celebratory and mournful message that, “reminds us that every aspiration harbours its dark and agnostic side” – Ashraf Jamal.

The book is a beautifully designed, simple rendering of the work laid out elegantly and reverentially. The cover a deep blood red and the only playful element, a small iconographic totem of the damaged cockroach, gives us a book where the photographs do the heavy lifting.

An opening essay by Ashraf Jamal does much to position the reader in the middle of the debate about Hugo’s work, asking do we believe Hugo to be a voyeur, does he have compassion, what in fact is he saying. If he is saying anything at all? We understand from Jamal's essay that Pieter’s work is “unerringly and unwaveringly human”. I agree with this. Jamal goes on to explain :

“As I understand it, Hugo is never exercised by his own subjectivity or morality. He is unconcerned with telling us what he thinks and feels. Rather his empathy, stemming from a calculated distance, asks us to suspend opinion and recognise a ‘power’ the power of photography as a recording tool and the power within the human – which is greater than the ‘work’ itself. For as Lorca reminds us, great art is a struggle, not a thought’.

The work has already been shown at Stevenson (SA) and Priska Pasquer (Cologne) and will open at Yossi Milo, NYC on the 10th January along with a book signing on the same date.

Further dates include a book signing at Dashwood, NY on the 16th January and a solo show in London at Huxley Parlour in the Spring. More details to be announced.

Published by RM Editions

With essays by Ashraf Jamal and Mario Bellatin

Designed by Joseph Burrin

Artist Reception and Book Signing
Yossi Milo

January 10th

6pm – 8pm

245 Tenth Avenue

(bet. 24th & 25th St.)

New York, NY 10001