From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Serrano is from a half Honduran, half Afro-Cuban background and was raised a strict Roman Catholic. The New-York-born artist studied from 1967 to 1969 at the Brooklyn Museum and Art School, and lives and works in New York.
His work has been exhibited in locations as varied and prestigious as the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City and a retrospective at the Barbican Arts Centre in London (2001) and in the Collection Lambert Avignon France (2006).
Serrano's work as a photographer tends toward relatively large prints of about 20 by 30 inches (0.5 by 0.8 m), which are produced by conventional photographic techniques (as opposed to digital manipulation). He has shot a vast array of subject matter including portraits of Klansmen, morgue photos, and pictures of burn victims. He went into the New York subways with lights and photographic background paper to portray the bedraggled homeless as art objects, as well as producing some rather tender but occasionally decidedly kinky portraits of couples. One of these last shows what Adrian Searle of The Guardian described as "a young couple, she with a strap-on dildo, he with a mildly expectant expression." 
Many of Serrano's pictures involve bodily fluids in some way—depicting, for example, blood (sometimes menstrual blood), semen (for example, "Blood and Semen II" (1990)) or mother's milk. Within this series are a number of works in which objects are submerged in bodily fluids. Most famous of these is "Piss Christ" (1987), a photograph of a plastic crucifix in a glass of urine. This caused great controversy when first exhibited. Serrano, alongside other artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, became a figure whom some attacked for producing offensive art while others defended him in the name of artistic freedom (see the American "culture wars" of the 1990s).
The most famous and notorious of Serrano's work plays on the relationship between beautiful imagery and vulgar materials, his subject matter often drawing from the potentially controversial and, perhaps, the willfully provocative. Guardian art critic Adrian Searle was not impressed in 2001: he found that Serrano's photos were "far more about being lurid than anything else... In the end, the show is all surface, and looking for hidden depths does no good."