Robert Mapplethorpe at The Getty

The Perfect Medium

This retrospective exhibit examines a comprehensive span of the artist’s work. From his humble beginnings in the early 1970’s to the culture wars of the 1900s. Displayed are a wide range of photography from portraits, nudes, still lifes, and the controversial X Portfolio which consists of 10 photographs in which he explores bondage, S&M, and gritty underground scenarios. His ability to compress gay culture in Project X was condemned by his contemporaries but are now seen as iconic.


His life and career is characterized by inherent dualities. Most notably he said “Whether it’s a cock or a flower, I’m looking at it in the same way… in my own way, with my own eyes.”There’s an inherent sensuality to his floral studies. The petals ripple provocatively, suggesting labia or tumbling silk, while the tiny prickling hair of a stem comes under close examination suggests hairs on the human body. The series of up-close photographs of the beautiful, hairy blossoms express all of their fragility and vivid power. These works can be theorized to reflect his view of the human understanding. The fact that the human spirit is fragile yet powerful. The unignorable and intense sensuality, all billowing texture and glistening, human-like hairs. The magnetism is undeniable. These two collections highlight the artist’s complex oeuvre.

Mapplethorpe Calla Lily 1984.jpg

Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, Queens. In 1963, Mapplethorpe enrolled at Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn, where he studied drawing, painting, and sculpture. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he also experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines. He acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970 and began producing his own photographs to incorporate into the collages.

“He dined with the elite of Manhattan’s art world by day, and slept with creatures of the city’s night when the sun went down. His life and career were characterized by inherent dualities.”-AnOther Magazine


Art. Culture. Current Events. jflorentinoweekly. 
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