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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Arturo Herrera, Venezuelan (Caracas, Venezuela born 1959)
Passing of the pig
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States, Illinois, Chicago
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Gelatin silver print
image: 16.19 x 24.45 cm (6 3/8 x 9 5/8 in.)
sheet: 20.32 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
The artist; Ivan Moskowitz and Rena Conti; "Gift of Herbert Moskowitz," to HUAM in 2000.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the Moskowitz Family, Encino, California
© Arturo Herrera
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Passing of the Pigs refers to a children's game by Milton Bradley, similarly titled, "Pass the Pig" in which two pig figures, or dice, are rolled by the players. Based on how they land - sideways, on their backs, on their feet - one wins a certain amount of points, the first player to 100 winning the game. In Passing of the Pigs, as in many of Arturo Herrera's works, we see the connection to childhood, here in the allusion to the children's game.

Herrera, literally turning the camera to his backyard in Chicago, plays with the elements of roofline shadow, grass, sidewalk, a flower bed, and a potted plant in this 1996 series of six silver gelatin prints. This domestic introspection results in both magnificent detail, as what one would expect to be a lush carpet of grass turns out to be patches of weds, clovers, and erratic snatches of blades, and ambiguity, as the viewer tries to locate herself in relation to the established elements, which quietly shift from one print to the next. The courtyard, something fixed and ordered with only five identified elements, becomes fragmented and disjointed as the time of day and Herrera's perspective and point of view change. The roofline shadow, a dominating dark band engulfing half of the space in one print, recedes in others, revealing the sidewalk and flower bed. Moving from piece to piece, the viewer becomes aware that although the scene is the same, changes abound. It is with the realization of subtleties that Herrera's work truly engages the viewer, as he creates an atmosphere in which the viewer works to logically explain the relation of elements: the potted plant in the middle of the yard, flower bed across from the sidewalk and on the same side as the building, the fence on the far end, perpendicular to the building.

With this, Herrera initiates what has rightly been described as a "hermeneutic crisis" , where interpretation and intention, are deliberately in flux. Herrera's oeuvre is characterized by this fragmentation and disjointed identity. Another photographic series, The Circular Ruins, (1995) explores the same tension, whereby each photo is a close-up of a man's neck. Seemingly the same picture, upon close examination, the viewer notices that the patterns slightly vary, prompting the questions: Is this two stages of the same beard growth, or has the man shaven, spurring the difference in growth patterns? In Herrera's work, seemingly obvious facts turn out not to be so simple. What seems clear really hovers in ambiguity. This appearance of simplicity is often manifested by his use of childhood images and pop culture icons, specifically cartoon characters and games in his paintings, felt murals, and photographs.

RC., _____________. "Goofy's Hermeneutic Crisis." Pages 58-59.

Verification Level

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