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Been There, Dung That

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The art of Andres Serrano has been derided in the crudest ways. Now it seems those comments, at least the most potty-mouthed, are all true. The artist, who has long experimented with bodily fluids in his photographs, will display his images of animal feces, including a human being’s (his), at a gallery in New York this fall. Serrano told the New York Post today that his use of poop “pushed even his buttons.”


Serrano has pushed these buttons before. Back in the late ’90s, Serrano’s photograph “Piss Christ,” showing a crucifix bathed in urine, set off a firestorm of protest, mostly from politicians who used his work to call for radical changes in how the National Endowment for the Arts selects recipients of the taxpayers’ money.
Not long afterward, then New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani filed suit against the Brooklyn Museum for including British artist Chris Ofili‘s portrait of the Virgin Mary, which emulated traditional African painters’ technique of daubing on dung as a decorative element. And if you didn’t identify the add-ons as elephant dung–and you wouldn’t had you not been told–Ofili’s work was reverent and beautiful.
Serrano’s current exhibit proves perhaps, for anyone who remembers the original scandal, that he is sincere about his exploration of our digestive systems–he didn’t abandon the motif, at any rate, once he’d made his, uh, splash. But having squeezed every bit of controversy out of bathroom art by implicating our religious feelings a decade ago, Serrano tests more our patience than the limits of art with this latest show. I’m sure it’s lovely, but really, who gives a —-?



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