America Is Hard to See

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.

561Richard Serra, Abu Ghraib, 2004


Richard Serra (b. 1938), Abu Ghraib, 2004. Lithograph: sheet, 20 × 14 9/16 in. (50.8 × 37 cm); image,16 × 10 9/16 in. (40.6 × 26.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Susan and John Hess in memory of Norma Hess 2012.203 © 2015 Richard Serra/ Artists Rights Society(ARS),New York

NARRATOR: Richard Serra used this image as the basis of a poster that he produced for the 2004 presidential election. It’s an interpretation of the most famous photograph to emerge from Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison where members of the American military were found to be torturing prisoners of war. In the poster that relates to this drawing, the text read “STOP BUSH.” 

RICHARD SERRA: The Stop Bush image was made as a political poster that anyone could download. And I went on to distribute it—we made a couple hundred thousand for both the conventions and for marches and rallies. And then I went on, actually, to make a signboard on 10th Avenue. 

If you look at the original image, the original image is in color, the person is balanced on a box, he has a dahiki on, and it’s very, very colorful. The image is easy to almost consume as an advertisement, and I think that’s how it has been consumed. 

I think with all appropriation you can’t add to an image, that only devalues the image.  You have to subtract from the image and try to find what its sign and symbolic value is, to turn the image in—transfigure it or mutate it. And that was my concern. My concern wasn’t aesthetic at all. My concern was completely political.



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