A controversial artist known for an infamous picture — Piss Christ, which glowingly captures Jesus on the cross in a tank of urine — Andres Serrano is already an art-world superstar. But now he wants to make his mark in the realm of rock music. Approaching the age of 60 and feeling that he’s done everything he wanted to do as a visual artist, Serrano is fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming a singer in a rock and roll band through a masked doppelganger named Brutus Faust. His debut album, Vengeance Is Mine, which was produced by Blow Up Hollywood’s Steve Messina, features five original songs and eight heartfelt covers that pay homage to the vocal styles of rock legends Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, as well as the offbeat, musical poet Malcolm McLaren.
In a recent ArtInfo interview, Serrano explained why he adopted the persona of Brutus Faust: “I like the idea of becoming an alter ego so that person can do things that you can’t normally do and it sort of gives you license to be someone else.” He also gave the back story on his mask, which is part of an altered Batman costume — a childhood fascination with the Lone Ranger.
The title track “Vengeance Is Mine” delightfully channels an inner demon that’s filled with the passion of Piss Christ, while “Goo Goo Gaga,” which Serrano penned, reveals the emptiness behind success as Brutus Faust wails, “When I’m strong, when I’m on top, I pick up the check, I don’t give a fuck, everyone wants to be my friend, Goo Goo Gaga.” The song is infectious and rings in your head long after hearing it or seeing the powerful video — composed from depression-era film footage — that accompanies it. A second video, Love Letters, equally utilizes black-and-white footage from Joe Sarno’s erotic film classic Flesh and Lace to a dynamic end.
While he does plan to eventually take his act live, Serrano told the interviewer, “I want to do at least four or five more videos before I get to the performing stage. But as a visual artist I also recognize that a music video is a way to give the audience a chance to connect the dots, to see the bigger picture, so it’s an aid to help them understand the music better.” Reminiscent of Julian Schnabel’s foray into rock music (Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud), we wonder if Serrano has the fervor to stick it out, regardless of what the critics might write. From the sound of it now, Brutus Faust has a fighting chance.
Click below to view our NSFW gallery of Serrano’s photographs and watch the videos for “Goo Goo Gaga” and “Love Letters.”