Presentation on theme: "By: Maria Vasquez. The only son of an Honduran immigrant father and a mother of Afro- Cuban origin, Andres Serrano was born in New York and spent most."— Presentation transcript:
By: Maria Vasquez
The only son of an Honduran immigrant father and a mother of Afro- Cuban origin, Andres Serrano was born in New York and spent most of his childhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City. Like his family, his predominantly Italian-American neighbors were devoutly Catholic, and religion played a significant part in his growing up - in school, at home and on the streets. After an initial school trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, young Serrano began to return to the museum on his own and became enamored with Renaissance painting, in particular its religious iconography. At the age of 15, he dropped out of high school with the ambition of becoming an artist and from he attended the Brooklyn Museum of Art School. He studied from 1967 to 1969 at the Brooklyn Museum and Art School, and lives and works in New York. On October 5th, 2007, several of his works were vandalized at an art gallery.
It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. Early on, I was working on religious images. Then, I started exploring this new idea where I wanted to photograph bodily fluids very close up, in a very abstract way, referring to abstract painting, geometric painting, and action painting. Initially the fluid pictures, which consisted of milk, piss, and blood, were very abstract. So, at some point, I decided to submerge a crucifix in one of the liquids for two reasons: to go back to the religious issues that I was exploring earlier and to go back to representation. So Piss Christ was two different directions in my work coming together in one image and certainly it didn’t provoke anything in me.
In this piece the audience is more captivated than merely shocked with the question of racial identity placed at the forefront which was precisely the intention of The Renaissance Society curating these specific pieces. The man in the photograph, fellow artist Aaron Olshan, appears to be an African-American man with the exception of the lower inch of the portrait's frame which sneakily hips the audience to the joke. Perhaps the question presently is no longer what are you, but moreover who are you to which Ralph Ellison echoes back, "when I discover who I am, I'll be free".
'Heaven and Hell' is one of the first works in which Andres Serrano used real blood. By introducing the elements of nudity and blood into a seemingly religious scene, Serrano raises the question of the role of religion in controversial socio- political issues that plague contemporary society, thus adding a further element of provocation. But the truly radical aspect of Serrano's blood photographs goes far beyond these specific, historically based elements of cultural tension.