Whenever I see a breathtaking work of art, I have the same reaction. "That's pretty impressive," I say. "But it's no Piss Christ."
Piss Christ is Andres Serrano's work from 1987 that is a photo of a plastic crucifix in a glass of his urine. It is arguably the most controversial artwork ever - and rightfully so.
I am all for freedom of expression and trying different things in art. But I could see how some might be offended by Piss Christ. In the late '80s, others were offended doubly because the National Endowment for the Arts paid Serrano for peeing in a glass.
When censorship was a popular debate in the late '80s and early '90s, Robert Mapplethorpe's name was more at the center of the debate than Serrano's. Mapplethorpe died in 1989, however, and most of the arguing with him surrounded his homosexual work. To me, Piss Christ takes the cake for controversy.
Is Piss Christ blasphemy or art? I say it's probably either both or neither.
I suppose Mapplethorpe and Piss Christ are back on the Snooze Button Generation's radar because of a new book by Patti Smith called "Just Kids" that's about her close relationship with Mapplethorpe.I am no art expert, but I would imagine that people might criticize Serrano for being a mere shock artist more concerned with gimmicks than art with depth. Au contraire mon frere, Serrano is apparently growing as an artist. In the fall of 2008, Serrano's exhibit titled "S**t" ran in the Yvon Lambert Galleries in New York and Paris. It featured huge photos of poop.