Ilán Lieberman's arresting images of missing children

October 2009 -

The exhibition entitled Niño Perdido (Missing Child) by Mexican artist Ilán Lieberman opened on 13 October 2009 in the gallery of the Prince Claus Fund in Amsterdam. At first glance, you appear to be looking at 75 photos of missing children in Mexico City. But upon closer inspection, you see that the faces have been meticulously drawn on paper in ink. Here is an artist who truly wants to get inside his subject. Some images are razor sharp; others are blurred and unclear. But the drawing is always an exact replica of the original; the figure is a commemoration of the missing child.

Image from Niño Perdido, (c) Ilán Lieberman

"My concern with the theme of the missing children is something that has been with me since my own youth. I remember that there was always an item on television, between the children's programs, where family members could show photos of their missing children in the hope that they might be found. This item is still aired on TV today," says Lieberman.

"I have been collecting photocopied portraits of missing children from newspapers and metro stations for years. These well worn, poor quality images, which are frequently accompanied with very little information - and that often poorly formulated - are a symbol for me of the sad desolation that surrounds the subject of these missing children. I couldn't do much other than attempt to 'recreate' these photos using a magnifying glass and later a microscope. Using sharpened pencils I literally copied the offset raster of the figures dot for dot."

Lieberman's monotonous, meticulous work method strikes one as almost old-fashioned. The work method slows you down and evokes a sense of peace that creates the space for contemplation. "The relationship between socio-economic development and a developed personal awareness is essential to me. One of the central concepts in the Niño Perdido exhibit is the identification that the drawings evoke between the observer and the child portrayed in the image. I hope that this creates a gripping relationship - albeit brief - between both the observer and the child that gives significance to the loss of a precious child and can in some way alleviate this," Lieberman says.