Galerie Nathalie Obadia is pleased to present the Torture series, which inaugurates Andres Serrano’s first exhibition in our Parisian gallery after Sacramentum: Sacred Shadows (2012) and Cuba (2014) held in our gallery of Brussels.
At the same time, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie is dedicating a solo show to the artist and featuring several of his most emblematic series, only a few months after a retrospective exhibition held by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium in 2016.
Born in New York in 1950, Andres Serrano has developed both provocative and fascinating work. The artist tackles fundamental issues such as politics and society through series like The Klan (1990), Nomads (1990), America (2002), Cuba (2012), Resident of New York (2014), and Denizens of Brussels (2015); religion, with Immersions (1987-1990), The Church (1991), Holy Works (2011), Jerusalem (2014); living beings (Bodily Fluids, in 1990), sex (History of Sex, in 1995-1996) and death (The Morgue, in 1992).
￼Andres Serrano, Fool’s Mask IV, Hever Castle, England (Torture), 2015
Andres Serrano’s approach is based on showing us the world as we made it in order to raise consciousness about our time. For more than 30 years, he has been capturing the spirit of our era and the contradictions of our society by looking at it with a critical, sometime ironic, but lenient eye.
For this show, Andres Serrano presents sixteen artworks from the Torture series, a project he started in 2005 after being commissioned by the New York Times to illustrate an article entitled « What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Torture ». Written by Joseph Lelyveld, the article looked back at Abu Ghraib’s scandal for which American soldiers were accused of human rights violation based on the overwhelming evidence of photographs showing Iraqis prisoners undergoing torture.
It was only ten years after, in 2015, that the a/political organization offered the artist a partnership to continue the Torture series. Andres Serrano then travelled to fifteen cities in nine European countries such as United Kingdom, France, Austria and Germany in order to deepen his research and collect more images.
He first conceived this series as “a show and a touristic attraction” by photographing various historical objects related to torture and turning medieval masks into artworks as we can see in the exhibition (Fool’s Mask IV, Hever Castle, England - Fool’s Mask and Flesh Gourge, Hever Castle, England - Fool’s Mask III, Hever Castle, England). These masks have the appearance of frozen face expressions, all at once raw, synthetic and perfectly expressive embodiments of torture. Paradoxically, these instruments of torture seem as terrifying and hideous as they are fascinating and unique. The known or imagined function of these objects only adds to their sensational dimension. They disturb us by incarnating the tortures they evoke and embody. “I chose to turn disturbing objects into beautiful ones”, commented the artist about his work.
It was at the “Fonderie”, a cultural space opened by a/political near Toulouse in 2013, that Andres Serrano staged this photographic series referencing several techniques and devices of torture through times. A large number of people volunteered and physically challenged themselves to experience torture for his photographs. Andres Serrano was surprised to discover: “In doing this work, I realized that it’s easy to torture people when you have power over them. My models were willing participants but real torture victims have no choice.” Through his committed approach, the artist questions the aestheticizing representation of violence through staging.
Thanks’ to the Waging Peace NGO, Andres Serrano entered in contact with «Fatima», a victim of torture, whose portrait is showcased in this exhibition. Suspecting of helping rebels in Darfur, this Sudanese woman was imprisoned and tortured by the police. The work Fatima, was Imprisoned and Tortured in Sudan expresses Fatima’s silent screaming, the mute and smothered suffering hidden under her veil.
In Ireland, Andres Serrano photographed four men accused to having ties to IRA (Irish Republican Army): «The Hooded Men ». In the 1970’s, Kevin Hannaway, Francie McGiugan, Patrick Mcnally, and Brian Turley were imprisoned by British authorities. They underwent specific torture and questioning treatments such as deprivation of sleep, water and food, exposure to noise or almost constant blinding under a hood. These four men survived and agreed to pose for Andres Serrano, wearing hoods again upon the artist’s request.
While tortured people had their identity denied, photography captures their silence and tells their History. By hiding the victim’s faces, Andres Serrano creates non-portraits where pain peaks through the covering of bodies, hence revealing the wound of torture.
With these works, Andres Serrano represents the many aspects of torture such as touristic fascination, torture as practiced in concentration camps, and torture as the ultimate punishment. This series led Andres Serrano to take up the role of both torturer and victim: the artistic experience he invites us in is representative of this ambivalence. Torture is a reality: forbidden by the Geneva Convention of 1949, nearly eighty-one countries still practice it.
Andres Serrano is born in New York (USA) in 1950. He lives and works in Manhattan.
Graduated from the Brooklyn Museum Art School of New York (USA) in 1969, Andres Serrano is one of the most recognized
contemporary artist on the international art scene.
He recently enjoyed several major solo shows such as Andres Serrano – Retrospective at the Moscow House of Photography (Russia, 2005), Dark Places at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (USA, 2006), Beautiful Suffering – Photography and the Traffic in Pain at the Williams College Museum of Art (USA, 2006), En Las Fronteras at the Villa Croce Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Genoa (Italy, 2006), A History of Sex at the Kulturen of Lund (Sweden, 2007), Andres Serrano at the Palais Fesch - Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ajaccio (Corsica, 2014), Ainsi soit-il at the Château de Villeneuve, Fondation Emile Hugues in Vence (France, 2015), Redemption at the Fotografiska Museum of Stockholm (Sweden, 2015), Andres Serrano at the Void Derry of Londonderry (Ireland, 2016), Torture at the Collection Lambert, Avignon (France, 2016), Ainsi soit-il at the Collection Lambert en Avignon (France, 2016), Uncensored photographs at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels (2016), Andres Serrano at La Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris (France 2016).
He also took part in several significant group shows among which Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography at the Tate Modern of London (United Kingdom, 2008), Traces du Sacré at the Pompidou Center of Paris (France, 2008), Autour de l’extrême at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris (France, 2010), Unsettled: Photography and Politics in Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA, 2011), NYC 1993 at the New Museum of New York (USA, 2013), Le Mur at La Maison Rouge in Paris (France, 2014), Slip of the tongue, at the Punta della Dogana, Pinault Foundation in Venice (Italy, 2016), Perfect Likeness : Photography and composition at the Hammer Museum of Los Angeles (USA, 2016), Joie de vivre at the Palais des Beaux Arts of Lille (France, 2016), Nothing but blue skies at the Rencontres de la photographie in Arles, (France, 2016), LOVE STORIES during the PHOTAUMNALES 2016 in Beauvais (France, 2016), Todo Abierto at La Friche de la Belle de Mai in Marseille (France, 2016).
Andres Serrano’s work is present in many private and public collections such as the MOMA in New York (USA), Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris (France), Huis Marseille in Amsterdam (Holland), National Gallery of Australia in Canberra (Australia), the Vancouver Art Gallery (Canada), the Museum of Contemporary Art of Zagreb (Croatia), the ARKEN Museum for Moderne Kunst in Copenhagen (Denmark), the CAPC Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (France), the Collection Lambert en Avignon (France), the Institute of Contemporary Art in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), the Israel Museum of Jerusalem (Israel), the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo of Mexico City (Mexico), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, (USA), the Brooklyn Museum (USA), the Institute of Contemporary Art of Boston (USA), the Modern Art Museum Fort Worth (USA), the New Museum of Contemporary Art of New York (USA), the Groninger Museum (The Netherlands), the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington (USA).
In 2017, Andres Serrano’s work will be showcased at the Petit Palais in Paris (France) and at Huis Marseille in Amsterdam (The Netherlands).