About the work

ANDRES SERRANO

ABOUT THE WORK

   ANDRES SERRANO
     Klansman (Great Titan of the Invisible Empire), 1990
C-print
151 x 125 cm
The portrait of the hooded and thus anonymous Klansman is both neutral and highly theatrical. Serrano has deliberately omitted the environment that we usually associate with the Ku Klux Klan: there are no burning crosses, agitated crowds or attacks on innocent minorities. All that remains is the Klansman as an aesthetic sculpture that resists analysis.

Nothing is revealed about the context in which the picture was taken. We are merely shown a dramatically lit hooded person, the formal elements of the photograph – colours and shapes – being the most conspicuous. Nonetheless it is a startling subject because the hooded profile has attained an iconic nature, as a symbol of evil, ignorance and intolerance.

The portrait belongs to a larger series that Serrano created in 1990. Seeking out a Georgia branch of the Ku Klux Klan, in a few days he executed the characteristic portraits, all of whom are composed in a similar manner. This series was first exhibited alongside one of homeless people ('Nomads') that Serrano had created in New York before undertaking the Klan project.

THE OTHER SIDE OF BEAUTIFUL
The juxtaposition of the horrible and the beautiful has become Andres Serrano's trademark. With an unfailing interest in communicating and discussing issues that tend to disgust, he has photographed homeless or dead people, extreme sexuality, blood and urine in ways far beyond the usual, and in highly fascinating ways. Frequently the theme is the abject: that which is connected with our bodies and with life yet is something else: be it blood, urine, vomit or semen.

Serrano creates meticulously composed pictures, striving for the utmost beauty in each picture – quite a paradox considering the subject matter. Formalist juxtapositions, lighting and clear colour contrasts are an essential element in the photographs. The fundamental dichotomy between form and content has been the most prominent approach to the array of series and subjects that Serrano has explored throughout the years.

Andres Serrano's work in general
Serrano has given prominence to the most glaring taboos of the frequently staunchly conservative USA. In the 1980s at the height of the AIDS debate Serrano created a number of his most praised works: almost abstract presentations of flows of blood and semen on completely uniform backgrounds, accentuating the formal, aesthetic characteristics. These deeply beautiful works transpose the actual depiction – the concrete bodily fluids – and instead show how beautiful these potentially lethal fluids can be.

The abstract works manifestly allude to art historical luminaries of the twentieth century such as Barnet Newman and Piet Mondrian whose bright colours and uniform surfaces present significant abstract expressions. However, the art historical references are not Serrano's primary mission. His has been a constant desire to push the envelope with regards to beauty by bombastically aestheticising the abject – that which we otherwise try to avoid.

PERSONAL COMMITMENT
Serrano is a Catholic homosexual with family from Latin America and Africa respectively and he has described how the subjects of his works carry great personal interest. The religious symbols played an important part in his childhood, he was personally involved in the AIDS polemic of the 1980s and the Ku Klux Klan portraits plainly were not without personal investment.

POLITICAL CONTROVERSIES
During the 1980s Serrano garnered quite a bit of attention. He and the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, notorious for his sexually explicit photographs of homosexuals and Afro-Americans, became the subjects of severe criticism from political conservatives and religious right-wingers. The Republican  senator Jesse Helms lambasted publicly subsidised art that might seem religiously or sexually offensive.

Serrano's most famous photograph, Piss Christ (1987), a depiction of a small crucifix submerged in the artist's urine became a symbol of the controversies and political battles that ensued from Serrano's works. It is a very beautiful picture, and were it not for the title and our knowledge of the work, the photograph would likely have been perceived as a tribute.
 
Recently Serrano put out a large book, America, collecting a number of earlier series as well as showing new portraits spanning a wide range from celebrities to child stars as we know them from American child beauty pageants.

Arken
DK-2635 Ishøj
Tel: (+45) 43 54 02 22
Skovvej 100
Opening hours
Tuesday-Sunday: 10-17
Wednesday: 10-21
Monday: Closed
Admission fees
Adults: 50 kr.
Groups: 50 kr.
Pensioniers: 50 kr.
Students: 50 kr.
Children under 18: Free
CLUB ARKEN: Free