The Erotic Museum with the support
of JT's Stockroom presents a one man show of images from the series
"A History of Sex" by Andres Serrano. The large
format photographs were commissioned in 1996 by the Groninger Museum
in the Netherlands and opened to both vehement protest and overwhelming
This series of work, begun in Rome in 1995 and completed in Amsterdam
in late 1996, explores the diversity of lifestyles and sexual practices
of human beings. As in previous series by Serrano (Fluids, The
Morgue, The Church, or Nomads), the artist is examining the
larger issues of life: birth and death, bodily functions, social
status, religion, ethnicity. In A History of Sex, Serrano
sets out once again to put an aspect of human nature in stark relief.
The works are portraits, with an emphasis on individual character.
Many of the titles bear the names of those who posed for the photographs,
and in most works the subject or subjects look directly at the camera.
This matter-of-fact stance of the subjects may seem in marked contrast
to their actions. Perhaps this is because most sexual lives are
conducted privately or perhaps because the issue of how sexual imagery
and practice should be dealt with publicly is controversial and
Two of the individuals in A History of Sex were known
to Serrano. All were chosen for their distinctiveness. Significantly,
most of the subjects are not the buff-bodied, super-endowed humans
of pornographic fare but ordinary people. Also portrayed are the
elderly and those with unusual physical attributes (such as dwarfs
and contortionists), types that are not often associated with sexuality.
Foremost was the artist’s concern that their personality and
disposition be conveyed in their countenance and would not be overshadowed
by the highly charged imagery. Serrano further shifted the emphasis
away from the merely obscene by taking the sexual acts from the
expected arenas of practice to pastoral settings (for example, a
meadow, the sea).
A History of Sex is just one history of sex not a definitive
one. Serrano is not forcing us to accept a new context for sex,
or to condone or reject certain behavior. Nor is he trying to titillate.
While the topic of sexuality itself is charged, the images are not
stylized in the manner of pornography; they do not have a seductive
manner. The easy and direct access to the sexual nature and behavior
of the individuals in A History of Sex demonstrates that
they are unafraid to show their sexuality; they put it out there
for all to see. The viewer is left to determine how to feel about
The exhibition extends into the Museum's Projection Room with Michael
Coulter's 2003 documentary "A History of Sex",
an exploration of the work and soul of Serrano, how he creates explicit
images, bonds with his models and colleagues and, in the end, how
he creates moving photographs of honesty and beauty that shed a
unique light on the human condition. The film takes us deep into
the sex clubs of Amsterdam, the cathedrals and canals that Serrano
uses as his backdrops, and into the spirituality of Serrano himself,
deeply influenced by the images of the Catholic Church, but rebelling
at its dogma.