534 W 21st Street
NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of recent work by Andres Serrano, opening on December 6, 2003. The exhibition will include a selection of fifteen to twenty large color photographs from America, an ongoing series of portraits begun in early 2002.
A marked departure from The Interpretation of Dreams, shown at the gallery in 2001, Andres Serrano’s new work goes back to the grand tradition of studio portraiture, offering imposing, sumptuously lit portraits of a broad spectrum of Americans. All-inclusive in its intent, the series shatters limitations of age, class, ethnicity or professional occupation that have traditionally governed portraiture. In it, people with titles as varied as Pimp, Mexican Migrant Worker, America’s Little Miss Yankee or Firefighter, come together to offer a fresh look at “We, the people,” at a time when American identity and values are the subject of intense political debate, both here and abroad.
Beyond its implications for an updated definition of American identity, the series also highlights the discrepancies between public and private, professional and personal, appearance and essence that inhabit all of us. While some of the sitters do indeed put forth their public persona with a certain degree of pride or self-confidence, others seem to use it as a shield, protecting their inner selves. Others, still, appear to have broken through any socially imposed layer, to reveal their bare humanity.
Andres Serrano was born in New York in 1950. He studied at the Brooklyn Museum and Art School and started exhibiting in the 1980s. In 1989, Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine, launched a national debate about free expression and federal funding of the arts. Andres Serrano’s art has investigated the nature of contemporary spirituality in many provocative ways, from images of religious icons bathed in bodily fluids to portraits of church people and church interiors, to the Morgue (1992) a chilling series of images of corpses taken in a city morgue. Portraiture has always been part of his practice: past series of portraits have included Klansmen (1990), Nomads (1990), American Indians (1995), and Bodybuilders (1998).
Serrano’s work has been the subject of numerous museum exhibitions, nationally and internationally, including the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montréal (1992); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (1994); the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1995); the Malmö Konsthall (1996); the Groningen Museum of Art (1997); and the Barbican Art Centre, London (2001).
Some works from America were shown at the Firenze Mostre, Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2003. A book of the entire series, to comprise some hundred photographs, is forthcoming from Taschen.