Andres Serrano (American, b. New York 1950)
Untitled VII (Ejaculate in Trajectory), 1989
Photograph: 40 x 60 in. (101.6 x 152.4 cm); frame: 45 1/8 x 65 in. (115.6 x 165.1 cm)
Roush Fund for Contemporary Art, 1989
This large Cibachrome is essentially abstract and stark; the single mark of Serrano's ejaculate streaks in a whitish-violet arc with gold highlights across a black background.
Untitled VII (Ejaculate in Trajectory) falls within a series of Serrano's work that utilizes human bodily fluids in visually dynamic and politically charged images. During the mid to late 1980s, the artist photographed urine, menstrual blood, mother's milk, and male ejaculate to explore issues surrounding Catholicism and sexuality, as well as formal aesthetic problems.
During 1987, Serrano's photographs, along with the work of artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Karen Finley, became the focus of intense criticism by political conservatives and right-wing religious groups. His Piss Christ (1987, which is a photograph of a small crucifix submerged in the artist's urine, became nearly synonymous with the funding crisis that surrounded the National Endowment of the Arts.1
Although executed during this period of public discourse on sexuality, obscenity, and public funding of the arts, Untitled VII does not have the iconic immediacy of Piss Christ or the specificity of his portrait photographs of members of the Klu Klux Klan (1990). Untitled VII is an abstract and generalized image of male sexuality, and functions much like Serrano's photographs of women's menstrual blood, such as Bloodstream (1987). Both works aestheticize bodily fluids that are gender specific and socially taboo.Untitled VII is from an edition of three, plus a single artist's proof, printed in this format (101.6 x 152.4 cm). There are also ten prints of the image in a smaller format (69.9 x 101.6 cm). The series of photographs of the artist's ejaculations are numerically ordered up to fifteen, but only ten have so far been printed by the artist.2
Work reproduced with permission of Andres Serrano
Born in New York City in 1950, Serrano is the son of a Honduran father, who abandoned the family, and an African-Cuban mother, who did not speak English. Serrano developed an early interest in art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and began to study painting at the Brooklyn Museum School at the age of seventeen. While there he discovered photography, but after two years abandoned his formal education due to a drug addiction, and stopped creating art for several years. In the late 1970s, Serrano was able to break his drug dependency and return to photography. After five years of street portraits and landscapes, Serrano produced his first major series that merged his interest in Catholicism and his interest in Dada and Surrealist art. In 1985 he began a series of works that incorporated human bodily fluids, and in 1987 he created what has become his signature image, Piss Christ. In 1990 Serrano began a series of portraits of homeless men and women, members of the Klan, and Catholic clerics. In 1992, Serrano investigated the issues of death and violence in a series of photographs taken in a morgue. More recently he created a series of photographs entitled the History of Sexuality.
Murphy, Patrick. Andres Serrano: Works 1983-1993. Exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1994.
Wallis, Brian, ed. Andres Serrano: Body and Soul. New York, 1995.
With Stux Gallery, New York, from whom purchased in 1989
The image but not this print
Murphy, Patrick. Andres Serrano: Works 1983-1993. Exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1994, pp. 34, 58, 59.
Wallis, Brian, ed. Andres Serrano: Body and Soul. New York, 1995, pp. 54, 55.
This Cibachrome was printed on a glossy-finish polyester-film base support, and mounted with silicone to the back of a sheet of plastic glazing (most likely acrylic or polycarbonate). The photograph and the attached glazing were not unframed for examination, as this would have provided little additional information about the condition or manufacture of the piece. The work appears to be in good condition. The upper left corner is slightly clouded by spots, possibly residues on the photograph or surface alterations to the glazing, or both.
1.For specifics on the controversy, see Wendy Steiner, "Below Skin-Deep," in Andres Serrano Works 1983-1993 (exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1994), pp. 30-31; and Bruce Ferguson, "Andres Serrano: Invisible Power," in Andres Serrano: Body and Soul (New York, 1995), p. 5.
2. Andres Serrano: Works 1983-1993 (exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1994), p. 101.