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Silver dye bleach process color print (Cibachrome)
Image: 40 x 59.6 cm (15 3/4 x 23 7/16 in.); Paper: 50.8 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in.); Matted: 71.1 x 81.3 cm (28 x 32 in.)
Anonymous Donor and Photographers + Friends United Against AIDS 1995.204.7
Serrano came to prominence in the 1980s for artwork that provoked and angered American right-wing legislators, including the late Senator Jesse Helms. Known as the "culture wars," it was a time when Helms and other politicians attacked the National Endowment for the Arts for supporting artwork they deemed obscene and offensive. While Serrano's images may evoke strong reactions, his subject matter remains elementally human, whether he is depicting religious icons, closely cropped human figures, objects of violence, or in the case of this work, bodily fluids. Produced at the height of the AIDS crisis in America, Blood and Semen V is a mixture of blood and semen seen as if under a microscope. Importantly, both fluids carry equally productive and destructive power—each can produce life through transfusions or conception, or hasten death via complications caused by HIV/AIDS. While visually abstract, the image is a poignant commentary on the cycle of life to death and back again.
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