Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Andres Serrano's "Shit"

My favorite controversial Latino artist has outdone himself this time. His new show "Shit" opens at the Yvon Lambert gallery this Thursday, September 4th.

from the Yvon Lambert press release for "Shit":

Serrano’s work focuses on universal themes such as bodily fluids, religion, sex and death. In this new series he continues his investigation of bodily functions through color photographs of excrement produced by a motley of animals. The photographs are formally constructed and demonstrate Serrano’s considerable technical skill while analyzing subject matter that might make some viewers squeamish. The artist treats the feces to his familiar bright psychedelic backgrounds and titles that demonstrate his keen sense of humour. The photographs are simultaneously repellent and fascinating, allowing the viewer to inspect the manure without the deterrent of odor or other sensual aggravation.

Although the theme is considered taboo, excrement has a discernable documentation in the history of art. In 1961 Piero Manzoni’s unveiled his “Merda d’Artista” metal cans that supposedly contained the artist’s stool, priced according to weight. Karen Finley smeared herself with symbolic feces and even Andy Warhol was quoted in the National Review saying that he would like to market his own excrement as jewelry (he felt it was merely a matter of tasteful packaging).

Serrano does nonetheless confront the topic more directly than most. We recoil from his larger than life images of human and animal waste (an evolutionary and biological response to the diseases that are the consequence of bad sanitation. We are programmed to know this refuse is dangerous to handle or ingest). Once the viewer recovers from the initial shock of the images, they are left to curiously study this eccentric body of work. Who could have imagined that animals produce such an array of textures, shapes and color? Serrano gives us a selection of “shits” that he dubs Good Shit, Bad Shit, Bull Shit, Hieronymous Bosch shit, Romantic shit and Deep shit, humorous, insightful and often literal titles which further illustrate Serrano’s provocative point of view.

I would expect nothing less from the man who shook up the art world in 1987 with Piss Christ, an image of a plastic crucifix submerged in the artist's own urine. That photograph along with some of Robert Mapplethorp's s&m photos became fodder for the conservative right who wanted de-fund the NEA. Although his work is extremely controversial (his Klansman series comes to mind), Serrano has long been a beacon of artistic integrity and freedom (not to mention that he is a hell of a photographer).

The exhibition will open with a reception for the artist on September 4th from 6 to 8pm, and be on view from September 4th through October 4th, 2008. If you can't make it to the opening he'll be signing copies of the exhibition catalogue on Friday, September 5th from 3pm-5pm.

Andres Serrano: Shit
Yvon Lambert New York
550 W 21st St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 242-3611

For more information:
Yvon Lambert New York
: ‘Piss Christ’ Photographer Andres Serrano Craps Out Some New Art
Village Voice: Andres Serrano's "Shit" Show

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