Andres Serrano (born August 15, 1950) is an American photographer and artist who has become notorious through his photos of corpses and his use of feces and bodily fluids in his work, notably his controversial work "Piss Christ", a red-tinged photograph of a crucifix submerged in a glass container of what was purported to be the artist's own urine.
Serrano was born in New York, NY on August 15, 1950. He is from a half Honduran, half Afro-Cuban background, and was raised a strict Roman Catholic. He studied from 1967 to 1969 at the Brooklyn Museum and Art School, yet is considered to be a self-taught photographer. In December, 1980, he married artist Julie Ault. In a 2012 interview, Serrano references Ault as his "first wife" and Irina Movmyga as his current wife.
He worked as an assistant art director at an advertising firm, before creating his first works in 1983.
His work has been exhibited in diverse locations around the world including the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, World without end (2001), and a retrospective at the Barbican Arts Centre in London, Body and soul (2001).
His exhibitions have often inspired angry reactions. On October 5, 2007, several of his works were vandalized at an art gallery in Lund, Sweden by people who were believed to be part of a neo-Nazi group. On April 16, 2011, after two weeks of protests and a campaign of hate mail and abusive phone calls to an art gallery displaying his work, orchestrated by groups of French Catholic fundamentalists, approximately a thousand people marched through the streets of Avignon, to protest outside the gallery. On April 17, 2011, two of his works, Piss Christ and The Church, were vandalized. The gallery director plans to reopen the museum with the damaged works on show "so people can see what barbarians can do".
Serrano's work as a photographer tends toward relatively large prints of about 20 by 30 inches (51 by 76 cm), which are produced by conventional photographic techniques (as opposed to digital manipulation). He has shot a vast array of subject matter including portraits of Klansmen, morgue photos, and pictures of burn victims. He went into the New York subways with lights and photographic background paper to portray the bedraggled homeless, as well as producing some rather tender but sometimes decidedly kinky portraits of couples. One of these last shows what Adrian Searle of The Guardian described as "a young couple, she with a strap-on dildo, he with a mildly expectant expression."
Many of Serrano's pictures involve bodily fluids in some way—depicting, for example, blood (sometimes menstrual blood), semen (for example, "Blood and Semen II" (1990)) or human female milk. Within this series are a number of works in which objects are submerged in bodily fluids. Most famous of these is "Piss Christ" (1987), a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine. This caused great controversy when first exhibited. The work was sold for $277,000 in 1999, which was far beyond the estimated $20,000 – $30,000. Serrano, alongside other artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, became a figure whom Senator Jesse Helms, and Senator Alfonse D'Amato, as well as other cultural conservatives, attacked for producing offensive art while others, including The New York Times, defended him in the name of artistic freedom. (See the American "culture wars" of the 1990s).
Serrano's series "Objects of Desire", from the early 1990s, features close-ups of firearms, photographed at the Slidell, Louisiana home of artist Blake Nelson Boyd. Included is a shot, against a glowing orange background, down the barrel of a loaded .45 revolver (belonging to Boyd's grandfather) that was used by Jonas Mekas for the cover of the April–May–June 2007 Anthology Film Archives catalog.
The most famous and notorious of Serrano's work plays on the relationship between beautiful imagery and vulgar materials, his subject matter often drawing from the potentially controversial and, perhaps, the willfully provocative. Guardian art critic Adrian Searle was not impressed in 2001: he found that Serrano's photos were "far more about being lurid than anything else... In the end, the show is all surface, and looking for hidden depths does no good." More recent work of his uses feces as a medium.
Serrano's work "Blood and Semen III" is used as the cover of heavy metal band Metallica's album Load, while "Piss and Blood" is used on ReLoad. Serrano also directed a video for industrial metal group Godflesh, "Crush My Soul".
Andres Serrano adopted the alter ego "Brutus Faust" to create the full length album Vengeance Is Mine in July 2010. The album contains covers of classic songs from the 1960s, and original compositions including four songs written by Serrano’s wife Irina Movmyga as well as one song co-written by Serrano, Thad DeBrock, and album producer Steve Messina of New York based band Blow Up Hollywood. Coinciding with the release of the album are the videos Goo Goo Gaga, Love Letters, and Bad Moon Rising. Goo Goo Gaga consists mostly of black and white footage from the 1940s, which makes parallels between the Depression and the present day, with the images of "Brutus" shot by Francesco Carrozzini. Love Letters is footage taken from cult director Joe Sarno’s Flesh and Lace. Bad Moon Rising consists entirely of footage Serrano compiled from several short films by John Santerineross. All of these short films were edited by New York film editor Vincent V.
- Evans, executive editor: Martin Marix (1995). Contemporary photographers (3. ed. ed.). Detroit: St. James Press. pp. 1013–1015. ISBN 1558621903.
- "Andres Serrano – Biography". Rogallery.com. Retrieved April 19, 2011.
- "Meet the photographer: Andres Serrano". Musee. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
- Carol Vogel (October 9, 2007). "Gallery Vandals Destroy Photos". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2011.
- Angelique Chrisafis (April 18, 2011). "Attack on 'blasphemous' art work fires debate on role of religion in France". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2011.
- Searle, Adrian. Negative energy, The Guardian, October 13, 2001. Retrieved February 10, 2008.
- Auction Results: Andres Serrano's Piss Christ
- Brenson, Michael (December 8, 1989). "Andres Serrano: Provocation And Spirituality". The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
- Yaeger, Lynn. "Andres Serrano's 'Shit' Show", Village Voice, August 26, 2008. Accessed September 8, 2008.
- Renaissance Society
- Brutus Faust.com
- Laster, Paul (July 22, 2010). "Andres Serrano Wants to Be a Rock Star". flavorwire. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
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