”In my work I always seek the unusual, or at least what is not traditionally considered beautiful. In my work I try to find the normal in the strange, and vice-versa”
Andres Serrano became subject to notoriety in 1998 as a result of a cultural and political scandal when his work “Piss Christ” of 1987 caused a heated debate in the USA about the freedom of art and its state financing.
Serrano´s colour photograph of a Christ figure submerged in a glass of urine struck conservatives as blasphemy. But Serrano´s work aimed at something more than just shock effect. “ Piss Christ” combines essential aspects of his artistic purpose – the fascination that religious symbols held for him, his ambivalent relationship with the church as an institution (e.g. “Heaven and Hell”, 1984), and his preoccupation with the very metaphorically and emotionally loaded bodily secretions of blood, milk,urine and sperm.
In “Bodily Fluids”, 1985-1990,Serrano applies these like pure colours – his close-up photographs recall monochrome pictures or works of Abstract Expressionism. The tension between photographic directness and a theatrically baroque stylisation of – still provocative – themes like religion, the body, sex and death is characteristic of Serrano´s methodology.
He returns to the traditional genre of the portrait in “Klan”, 1990, and “The Church”, 1991. Serrano represents members of the Ku Klux Klan or monks and nuns like icons in their habits in front of a monochrome background. In a similar kind of typification, portraits of the homeless become “Nomaden”, 1990, and the corpses in “The Morgue”, 1992, become allegories of a usually premature and violent death.
Serrano picked people who seemed to be outside mainstream America but were fundamental to its thinking. He saw beyond what would be considered by liberals as the "bad things" in society, to explain why certain people would want to join an extreme group. He ennobled belief beyound prejudice, so we can see the aura of outdated iconography, feel its fear and mystery.
“Budapest”, 1994, and particularly “The History of Sex”, 1997, show human sexuality in the most various and socially taboo forms. These works are much more prosaic in their subjects and in their pictorial language, which is close to the glossy aesthetic of the media.
Serrano is never judgmental in his endeavour to find the “normal in the strange”.
He plays with popular ideas of beauty and morals, but also with the voyeuristic curiosity of his viewers.
Andres Serrano - The Morgue
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, 1996
A History of Andres Serrano - A History of Sex
Groninger Museum, Groningen, 1997
Le Sommeil de la Surface