19 February – 14 March 2020
Huxley-Parlour gallery are pleased to present La Cucaracha, new photographs by South African artist Pieter Hugo. A multifaceted study of place, the series includes a mix of individual portraits, vibrant and visceral landscapes, interior studies and still lifes, and explores death, sexuality and spirituality in Mexico.
The series reflects the artist’s long-standing interest in how history and environment can shape a culture and those living within it. Hugo looks to rituals of rites of passage, and their associated formal codes of conduct and dress, but also wider rituals of religion, theatre and community. In this series, he specifically looks to the impact on the physical body, creating powerful portraits that focus on tattoos, jewellery, of sweat on skin and scars.
Mexico has a particular ethos and aesthetic; there is an acceptance that life has no glorious victory, no happy ending. Humour, ritual, and a strong sense of community and an embrace of the inevitable make it possible to live with tragic and often unacceptable situations.
There is a very different relationship with death here to what I am used to. If one looks beyond the clichés of dancing skeletons and sugar skulls, there’s a deeply complicated connection with mortality. This necropolitical dynamic is most visible in contradictory expressions of honouring the afterlife, in the Day of the Dead celebrations and the brutal dismemberment of bodies by narco traffickers.
Alongside the flamboyance and high-pitched register of this series, there is the ordinariness of the everyday. I am drawn to the fabulousness of the banal and the banality of the exotic.