Andres Serrano doesn’t do safe. From documenting bodies in the morgue to submerging a crucifix in his own urine or photographing contortionists and dwarfs in flagrante, the American artist and photographer has elicited strong reactions, including the desecration of his works and multiple verbal assaults.
His Piss Christ drew the ire of Congress when it was revealed that the photograph was part of a traveling show partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Republican Senator Jesse Helms labeled Serrano a non-artist "jerk," while Republican Senator Alphonse D’Amato tore to shreds a copy of the photograph, labeling it deplorable and despicable in that 1989 crusade against the NEA by the religious right.
In 2007, a group of masked neo-Nazis vandalized photographs from Serrano's "History of Sex" series, labeling them decadent and degenerate.
Serrano is coming to Houston with another controversial subject. Now that torture is back in the news again (though federal law prevents President Trump from immediately ramping up the interrogation machine), it seems a good time for the artist's “Torture” series.
He probably shocked the residents of a French industrial town when he commissioned the locals to duplicate objects of torture. He then posed more than 40 models in degrading positions as they were shackled, submerged and humiliated for the sake of art. Serrano's venue was The Foundry, an experimental space that lends a spooky touch of macabre to the images.
He simulated both mental and physical techniques in the tableaus, creating another entry in the history of heinous crimes in recent memory, including the medical testing during the Holocaust, the CIA's covert torture programs and actions by the British government in Northern Ireland during "The Troubles."
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The series was initiated and produced by a/political with Becky Haghpanah-Shirwan. For the Houston show at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibit was organized and curated by Alan Schnitger, chief curator; Joshua Poole, assistant director; Alex Tu, curator; Ashura Bayyan, assistant curator; and James Harithas, director and founder of the museum.
Tu tells us that Serrano’s work invites discussion about whether torture is morally or ethically right, or if it’s even something that should be upheld by freedom-loving people.
There's an opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. June 3, with refreshments and live music.
"Torture" continues 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. June 3 through October 8. The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, 1502 Alabama. For information, call 713-529-6900 or visit stationmuseum.com. Free.