Andres Serrano Strikes a New Chord with Anarchy

One of the most controversial artists of the past 25 years, Andres Serrano first gained notoriety on the floor of the US Senate back in 1989 when his photograph Piss Christ — a striking image of a crucifix immersed in the artist’s own urine — was publicly denounced by the Republican right. Rather than letting the powers that be censor his work, Serrano went deeper into uncharted territory with several following series that captured members of the Klan in full regalia, dead bodies in a Parisian morgue, homeless nomads on New York City streets, and freaks engaged in outrageous sex acts. Returning to his roots, the artist is once again using figurines — this time toys — to visually convey a sense of anarchy that he sees permeating society today.

Debuting at Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art’s booth at the Armory Show in New York this week, Serrano’s Anarchy series shows the dark side of humanity. Staged toy figures are shot in silhouette against colored backgrounds to produce psychologically charged images. Jesus is confronted by paparazzi in Celebrity; Godzilla pulls down a plane in Rage; and soldiers are piled one on top of another in American Monument. Ironically, Alice in Wonderland, which was made in 2011, looks like it was inspired by stories of the war on women’s bodies that dominates the news today, while Level of Disobedience recalls the horrors of Abu Ghraib. The fact that these figures are silhouetted, and thus faceless, implies that they could be any one of us.

Andres Serrano, Anarchy (Celebrity), 2011. Cibachrome print, silicone, acrylic, wood frame. Image: 60 by 50 inches (152.4 x 127 cm), Frame: 66 by 56 inches (167.6 x 142.2 cm), Edition1/3. © Andres Serrano. Courtesy Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, NY