Andres Serrano is one of New York City’s most acclaimed, homegrown artists. Born in the city in 1950, he studied painting and sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum art school in the late 1960s. His career is known for pushing the limits of photography and ethics, and was a central figure in a 1990s culture war between controversial, envelope-pushing artists and conservative senators like Jesse Helms and Al D’Amato, who advocated for pulling funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other attempts to curb civil rights and freedom of expression.
Of course, Serrano’s name may be on the minds of many street culture enthusiasts more recently because of his recently released Supreme collaboration, which takes inspiration from his work with Metallica, for whom he lent his Blood and Semen III artwork for the cover of their album Load. The capsule also reinterprets Serrano’s equally controversial works like Piss Christ, a 1987 piece that sees a photo of Jesus Christ submerged in Serrano’s urine.
His 2015 show, “Torture,” examines black sites like Abu Ghraib and questions ethics against the abuse of U.S. detainees. Images of hooded men, bloody beds and crosses continue to draw the lines between trauma, violence, and the immeasurable cruelty that some humans inflect onto their fellow citizens.
One particular reference is an Irish group known as the “Hooded Men,” four Irishmen who suffered under the hands of the British army in the early 1970s. Kevin Hannaway, Patrick McNally, Francie McGuigan and Brian Turley became the first victims of “five techniques” of state-sponsored torture: wall-standing, hooding, noise subjection, sleep deprivation, and intentional starvation and dehydration. Another example drawn from real life is the piece called “Fatima,” inspired by a Sudanese woman who was tortured with a knife and raped in police custody under suspicion of being connected with rebels.
Andres Serrano’s “Torture” exhibit is currently showing at the 20th Street Jack Shainman Gallery through November 4.
Jack Shainman Gallery
513 W. 20th St.
New York, NY 10011
Now check out Andres Serrano’s entire collaboration with Supreme.
- Photography: Blake Rodich