Andres Serrano (American, b.1950) is a New York-born Conceptual artist known for his provocative and often controversial works. After studying at the Brooklyn Museum Art School from 1967 to 1969, Serrano became known for his photographs, which combined beauty and vulgarity. Primarily working in large-format and using no digital manipulation, Serrano lets the subject matter of his photos speak—and shock—for itself. Perhaps best known for his work Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix in what is purported to be the artist’s own urine, Serrano has drawn negative reactions from the religious leaders, conservative activists, and—most famously—senators protesting his receipt of National Endowment of the Arts funding. However, many have defended Serrano’s right to the freedom of expression, and he has continued to create works exploring challenging themes, such as violence, race, and poverty.
Other well-known works include his early 1990s series Objects of Desire, depicting firearms, The Morgue, depicting victims of violent crimes, and America, exploring the wide spectrum of what it “means to be an American.” Serrano’s work is included in museums around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and has been used on album covers for heavy metal bands, such as Metallica. Serrano has also explored the realm of music, recording an album and creating a series of videos under the alter-ego Brutus Faust.
Serrano is best known for his image Piss Christ (1987), a now-infamous pictures of a plastic crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine. Though not intended to shock, Serrano’s art brings together spirituality with physicality in a way that has garnered the artist considerable controversy. “That’s what happens when you do work that is emotionally provocative, it polarizes people on both sides of the fence,” the artist has said. Born on August 15, 1950 in New York, NY, Serrano is from a Honduran and Afro-Cuban background and was raised by a devout Roman Catholic family. The tenets of Catholicism’s taking the body and blood of Christ has played a major role in Serrano’s artwork. Though he never received a formal art education he did study at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art during his teenage years. Like Kiki Smith, he often uses bodily fluids—blood, milk, semen—in conjunction with sacred iconography. In 1996, the band Metallica released their album Load which used Serrano’s work Semen and Blood III (1990) as the cover art. The artist’s works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., among others.