The “Uncensored Photographs” of Andres Serrano Will Blow Your Mind
Photo: Semen and Blood III – BODILY FLUIDS SERIES.
“An artist is nothing without his or her obsessions, and I have mine,” Andres Serrano observed. His body of work is simply phenomenal, revealing that which has captivated his imagination through his career. Born in New York in 1950, Serrano is Honduran and Afro-Cuban, and was raised a strict Roman Catholic. Serrano rose to national notoriety in the spring of 1989, when his photograph Piss Christ became a media phenomenon.
In a campaign to defund the arts, Senators Jesse Helms and Alfonse D’Amato, along with 25 other members of the Senate, signed a letter to the National Endowment for the Arts advocating “reform.” A clause was then added rescinding support of works deemed, “obscene, including but not limited to, depictions of sadomasochism, homoerotocism, the sexual exploitation of children, or individuals engaged in sex acts and which, when taken as a whole, do not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
Senator Helms’s track record for racism, bigotry, and intolerance in the name of Christianity was the very target of Serrano’s work, which has remained intensely sensual experience of reality in its most gory states, continuously challenging our assumptions about Truth, Beauty, and Art. In Serrano’s world we are forced to look and to absorb, to take the good with the bad so that they merge into the Oneness of the Universe.
It sounds a little fruit loops until you stand in front of one of his photographs, as it dissolves time and space until representation becomes visceral experience. Through sight and sight alone, Serrano transforms existence so that we no longer see what we think, we see what is there. Whether looking at works from Bodily Fluids, The Klan, The Morgue, Torture, The Cross, Cuba, or A History of Sex, among others, Serrano envelopes the viewer with his deeply humanistic vision of the world, one that becomes increasingly transformative the more one gazes upon his photographs, like a form of meditation.
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium presents Andres Serrano: Uncensored photographs, now through August 21, 2016. Featuring over 150 photographs taken over 35 years, this is the largest retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work. The exhibition includes three acts of vandalism made against his work in Melbourne (1997), Lund, Sweden (2007), and Avignon (2011). The exhibition also includes an audioguide with explanations by the artist, which provide an even deeper layer of context to his intentions and perspectives.
Serrano does not shy away from the brutality of life, but rather embraces it much like Jesus Christ. His ability to see the beauty in that which is most vile speaks to the Holy Spirit that inhabits his works. “I like to believe that rather than destroy icons, I make new ones,” Serrano observes.
All photos: © Andres Serrano, Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris/Brussels.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.