Andres Serrano: Sacramentum: Sacred Shadows

Galerie Nathalie Obadia is delighted to be presenting the exhibition Sacramentum: Sacred Shadows, its first collaboration with American artist Andres Serrano.


For this event, the artist has chosen to show a selection of pieces drawn from the emblematic bodies of his work, so as to set his latest photographic production Holy Works – dating from 2011 – in a retrospective ensemble.


Andres Serrano is recognised as one of the artists who have been most bold in dealing with religion and the sacred in contemporary art, but through Sacramentum: Sacred Shadows he shows that his artistic approach is far more than simply provocation.


The point is that in his new series Holy Works, Andres Serrano revisits the sacred painting of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance with the idea of “reinventing and reinforcing the sacred icons”, the exact opposite of the blasphemous logic for which his work is sometimes criticised.


“I am a Christian and an artist, and as a Christian, I am entitled to use the symbols of the Church, because they are the symbols of my faith … This is not about attacking God or the Church, but actually about celebrating them both. Not only do I believe in God, I also believe in religious art, and in the beauty and power of that art”, explains the artist, who has a fascination with baroque and gothic Catholic imagery.


“Serrano’s entire endeavour rests upon the synthesis of opposites, so that the lower part is in dialogue with the upper part, the human with the divine, the earthbound with the celestial”, writes Italian art critic Germano Celant about Holy Works. “He seeks to reconcile the life of the flesh with the life of the spirit, sex and chastity, the sacred and the profane”.


The earlier series, The Morgue (1992), America (2002), Klansman and Nomads (1990), Budapest (1994), The Interpretation of Dreams (2000-01), and the highly controversial Bodily Fluids (1985-1990), follow a thread in his output where there is an obvious recurrence of themes, mingling political and aesthetic concerns: Christianity and the weightiness of its symbols, patriotism, social problems and prejudices, racism, sex and death are among this artist’s obsessions in his determination to transcend the notion of the forbidden in our contemporary society.


By drawing from this reservoir of basic subjects, and through this affection for the strange, the unusual, those rejected and marginalised by society, Serrano succeeds in transforming photography into a strong act to assert his ideas. While acknowledging the influence of Raphael, Rembrandt and Bosch, he roots his work in the tradition of the conceptual artists.


The truthfulness with which the artist captures the character of his models and his ability to reveal the beauty in an often morbid reality give his works an unparalleled emotional power, sowing the seeds of a genuine empathy with the viewer.