Andres Serrano And Three Other Artists Make Work About Death

Andres Serrano

Andres Serrano

Tereza Zelenkova

Tereza Zelenkova

Berlinde De Bruyckere

Berlinde De Bruyckere

Death becomes us all eventually, as we are exploring in the works covered in this two part article.  In light of the Halloween season, and the historical implications of death of this season, we are highlighting artists who create work that addresses or is informed by death and dying.  Part 1 included and discussed the works of Damien Hirst, Doris Salcedo, Angelo Filomeno, Konrad Smolenski and Joel Peter Witkin.  Here we examine the work of Andres Serrano, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Tereza Zelenkova and Oskar Dawicki.

Andres Serrano has built a reputation creating imagery that is shocking and confronts the viewer with heavy content, unapologetically.  His series on death takes this to the next level. Each image, a close-up intimate composition of the deceased subject, is titled according to the cause of death.  The Death Series functions as a mirror of our own mortality, delivered rawly and beautifully in rich colors and blank stares.

The work of Berlinde De Bruyckere is rough and organic, abstractly anatomical and animalistic in delivery.  The artist’s sculptural work emanates a quality that lies somewhere between a murder scene and a meat locker.  De Bruyckere’s pieces have a realistic quality of flesh torn apart yet are executed with fairly common artistic materials such as wax, wood, iron, cotton and wool is captivating.

Tereza Zelenkova created a series entitled Supreme Vice during a journey through the deserts of the Southwest.  Captured in the bleakest and most barren of environments, Zelenkova’s photographic works meditate on death through a poetic narrative that seems to address a spiritual continuum that overlaps life and death and creates a bridge between the two polarities.  The black and white series, that spans grey areas of mortality, is bound in a book, also entitled Supreme Vice.

The obituary series by Oskar Dawicki which was first exhibited in 2004 in a show aptly titled “The end of the world by accident” is far more ironic than the previously mentioned works.  The photographic works capture collages Dawicki assembled of actual obituaries he discovered in the newspaper.  The names of the deceased in the images appear to be celebrities and other famous figures at first glance.  The works toy with the spectrum of perception of significance in the value of human life and death.

Damien Hirst And Four Other Artists Who Make Art About Death

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin

Angelo Filomeno

Angelo Filomeno

It’s Halloween season, and campy macabre aesthetic surrounds us, making the general public a little more open to the darker parts of our existence.  Reflecting back on the origin of this holiday, All Hallow’s Eve and Samhain, the pagan celebration, it’s clear that death and the unseen world is the foundation.  Our ancestors believed that the veil to the other side became thin or disappeared completely on this night, allowing the spirit world to comingle with the physical and living world. There are many people and cultures that still hold this belief and practice today.

In light of the season I began searching through aesthetically significant contemporary art that finds its foundations in death and dying.  This is Part 1 of 2 of the scope of art about death, ranging widely in medium and other interwoven themes.  Damien Hirst, Angelo Filomeno, Joel Peter Witkin, Konrad Smolenski and Doris Salcedo all embrace the subject of death and dying in a widely varied manner.  As well, all are highly revered in their own right for their individual continuums of art produced over the years.

Damien Hirst is no stranger to controversy as an artist.  He always delivers shock value well and does not shy away from creating work that makes viewers squirm.  Materials he used to create the pieces featured here range from dead flies, to animal carcasses, formaldehyde and maggots.  Hirst’s works don’t just discuss the business of birth, death and dying- they display it in action right before your eyes, in a way that some of the work nearly becomes about life itself. 

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