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The Magical Children in Pieter Hugo’s ‘1994’

Curators’ Corner

The Magical Children in Pieter Hugo’s ‘1994’

 

Pieter Hugo
From the series 1994
Portrait #3, Rwanda, 2014
Digital C-Print
© Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Pieter Hugo
From the series 1994
Portrait #2, South Africa, 2014
Digital C-Print
© Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

In ‘1994’, Pieter Hugo’s fifth exhibit at the Yossi Milo Gallery, the artist’s latest photo series presented children born in 1994 following the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and South Africa’s apartheid. The young subjects, free from political toxicity, are laid against lush and natural settings in pretty pastel-colored garments. Hugo states, “I noticed how the kids, particularly in South Africa, don’t carry the same historical baggage as their parents. I find their engagement with the world to be very refreshing in that they are not burdened by the past, but at the same time you witness them growing up with these liberation narratives that are in some ways fabrications.“

Pieter Hugo
From the series 1994
Portrait #7, Rwanda, 2014
Digital C-Print
© Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Pieter Hugo
From the series 1994
Portrait #16, South Africa, 2016
Digital C-Print
© Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Hugo, a white South African photographer born in 1976 and currently Cape Town-based (now a father himself) brings out these solemn and vulnerable gazes from these children.  They are not hardened by the atrocities of war and social oppression, but carry optimism and renewed hope in their eyes. They are mostly wearing  donated clothing from Europe and co-exist beautifully in this utopian-like idyllic state free from adults. In one portrait, two South African boys (most likely brothers) with blonde hair in a flower field, stare peacefully into the camera. The older brother dressed in an oversized men’s blazer is carrying his younger brother, bare-chested in a pair of jeans. It’s a very tender brotherly stance. In another portrait, a blond girl no more than ten-years-old wear nothing but lilac underwear and a floral crown, her forest nymph-like appearance is charming yet juxtaposed by her intensely melancholic stare.

Pieter Hugo
From the series 1994
Portrait #19, South Africa, 2016
Digital C-Print
© Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Pieter Hugo
From the series 1994
Portrait #12, Rwanda, 2015
Digital C-Print
© Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Hugo is is most known for documenting communities on the fringe – albinos, people stricken with AIDS, street performers and their pet hyenas – this series is a refreshing departure. These children are enchanting and exude a sense of purity, but seem incredibly resilient and prepared for absolutely anything.

Pieter Hugo’s ‘1994’ was on view from January 26th, 2017 to March 11, 2017 at the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York.

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