La Cucaracha is the result of four trips to Mexico over the last two years, each spanning close to a month, with Hugo travelling from the industrialised zone of Mexico City to the desert of Hermosillo and the mountainous regions of Ixtepec and San Cristóbal. He states:
I first came to Mexico at the invitation of Francisco Berzunza. He was curating an exhibition of South African art at a museum in Oaxaca and wanted me to make new work for the show. The exhibition was titled Hacer Noche (‘Crossing Night’) and dealt with the liminal space after death. His only brief to me was that the work be about sex and mortality.
The complexity of the work’s title echoes Hugo’s layered exploration of these thematic concerns. Sung with the deceptive simplicity of a jingle, with lyrics describing a cockroach that cannot walk, La Cucaracha
is a folk song of contested origin. Historians have traced it as far back as the 1800s, yet it is accepted that it gained prominence as a satirical metaphor during the Mexican revolution when rebel and government forces alike invented political lyrics that commented on the events and effect of the war. Contemporary use of the song has spanned superhero movies, cartoons and recreational drugs. Violence, power, camaraderie and humour find articulation in the song, the country’s attitudes to sex and death, and in Hugo’s images. La Cucaracha
marks the first series in which Hugo uses descriptive titles, making more apparent the literary and art historical referencing that have long formed part of his practice. Images such as After Siqueiros, Zapata and Adelita
and the sequence of Muxe
portraits in particular foreground the country’s canon of visual expression.
Edition of 1500 copies.