Andres Serrano - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 14, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery New York
    Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle
    Private Collection, New York

  • Literature

    Takarajima Books, Andres Serrano, Body and Soul, n.p.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Piss Light is a signature image from Andres Serrano’s pivotal Immersions series. This body of work, especially those images depicting religious symbols, as seen in Piss Light, ignited a polemical firestorm whose impact still resonates today. Immersions became a lightning rod for artistic freedom in the United States when Serrano’s images were deemed indecent by conservative lawmakers Jesse Helms and Alfonse D’Amato, who denounced this work on the floor of the U. S. Senate. The resulting controversy encompassed debates about freedom of expression, obscenity, and government funding for the arts.

    Immersions depicts universally recognizable symbols of reverence, from Classical busts and Roman athletes to the Pietà and the Madonna, submerged in bodily fluids. No other images from the series, however, provoked a stronger reaction than that of Jesus on the cross. In Piss Light, the figure of Jesus Christ emerges from an amber-colored glow. The rich tonality and the striking composition invite further inspection, marrying a strong visual appeal with powerful conceptual statement. The sense of duality is further enforced by the title, one word referencing human physical matter, the other spiritual salvation.

    Like the best of Serrano’s work from this period, Piss Light draws from the Catholicism of his Honduran/Afro-Cuban upbringing, his practice as a conceptual artist, and his brief stint working in the advertising world. By pairing images of culturally-loaded symbols with terse, forceful titles, his work delivers a palpable impact upon both the eye and the intellect. Seen today, Piss Light remains as visceral and thought-provoking as when it played its role on the front lines of the culture wars of the 1980s.

    Since that time, Serrano has received numerous awards and honors, including being appointed the prestigious insignia of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in a ceremony held at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in 2018. His work is represented in major museums around the world including The Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, and many others.

    Piss Light was featured on the poster for the 1998 exhibition Andres Serrano: Selected Photographs: 1897-1996 at Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle. Serrano’s work is currently the subject the exhibition Andres Serrano: Infamous at NeueHouse Hollywood, and traveling to Fotografiska, New York, and Fotografiska, Stockholm, through 2021


Piss Light

Cibachrome print, Diasec mounted in original artist's frame.
40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Signed, titled and numbered 8/10 in pencil on the verso.

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $17,500

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas



New York Auction 14 October 2020