Critics’ Picks

Claudia Hans, Cuando una persona muere (When Somebody Dies), 2011, ink-jet print, 18 x 20”.

Claudia Hans, Cuando una persona muere (When Somebody Dies), 2011, ink-jet print, 18 x 20”.

Mexico City

Claudia Hans

Patricia Conde Galería
General Juan Cano #68 San Miguel Chapultepec
September 6–October 15, 2012

Cuando una persona muere…” (When Somebody Dies), 2011, is the title of one of the three photographic projects in Claudia Hans’s latest solo exhibition, “The End.” The award-winning series “Morido,” 2010, and “Imaginarios de Dios” (Imagining God), 2012, help to consolidate the show’s aesthetic and thematic texture. The three featured series consist of seemingly innocent and playful small-format black-and-white portraits of children responding to questions and interacting with situations posed by Hans concerning God and death. For example, in “Cuando una persona muere…,” she asked children to reply in writing and in wall drawings to questions about what happens to people after they die. Her ongoing dialogues with children have yielded a conceptually and formally solid body of work that not only revitalizes the most classic components of the portrait genre, but also infuses it with a lighthearted and visually harmonious spirit. Her work also induces a reflective stance upon dense essential philosophical-religious concerns.

Hans, who trained in clinical psychology, offers a lucid and frank depiction of the children’s diverse answers to her questions. Through her series we are able to grasp the youth’s distinct educational and cultural understandings, on the one hand, and the singularity of their imagination and ability to develop concepts and outgrowths of thought on the basis of a single originary intuition, on the other. This, along with Hans’s focused gaze on the children’s body language and facial expressions, gives her photographic projects considerable strength. Her work forges an openly hospitable dialogue between image and text, one that summons the breathable presence of another frank response to death, as given by philosopher Jacques Derrida at the end of his long battle with cancer. He then claimed to have finally understood the meaning of his life: The purpose of his doing philosophy had been nothing other than “learning to die.”

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.