ROBERT MAPPLE THORPE DU 8 FEVRIER AU 26 MARS 2014
Robert Mapplethorpe (November 4, 1946 New York City;â€“ March 9, 1989 Boston, Massachusetts) was an American photographer, known for his largescale, highly stylized black and white photography. His work featured an array of subjects, including celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, and stills of flowers. His most controversial work is that of the underground BDSM scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s of New York. The homoeroticism of this work fuelled a national debate over the public funding of controversial artworks.
Mapplethorpe was born and grew up as a Roman Catholic of English and Irish heritage in Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Floral Park, Queens, New York. His parents were Harry and Joan Mapplethorpe and he grew up with five brothers and sisters. He studied for a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he majored in graphic arts, though he dropped out in 1969 before finishing his degree.Mapplethorpe lived with his close friend Patti Smith from 1967 to 1974, and she supported him by working in bookstores. They created art together, and even after he realized he was homosexual, they maintained a close relationship. Mapplethorpe took his first photographs soon thereafter using a Polaroid camera. In the mid-1970s, he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began taking photographs of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, including artists, composers, and socialites. By the 1980s his subject matter focused on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and highly formal portraits of artists and celebrities. Mapplethorpeâ€™s first studio was at 24 Bond Street in Manhattan. In the 1980s, his mentor and lifetime companion art curator Sam Wagstaff bought a top-floor loft at 35 West 23rd Street for Robert, where he lived and used as his shooting space. He kept the Bond Street loft as his darkroom.
Mapplethorpe died on the morning of March 9, 1989, 42 years old, in a Boston, Massachusetts, hospital from complications arising from AIDS. His body was cremated and the ashes buried in Queens, New York, in his mother’s grave, marked «Maxey». Nearly a year before his death, the ailing Mapplethorpe helped found the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. His vision for the Foundation was that it would be «the appropriate vehicle to protect his work, to advance his creative vision, and to promote the causes he cared about». Since his death, the Foundation has not only functioned as his official estate and helped promote his work throughout the world, it has also raised and donated millions of dollars to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV infection. 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, saying he felt «it was more honest.» That same year he and Patti Smith, whom he had met three years earlier, moved into the Chelsea Hotel. 4
YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO GET ANYWHERE IN LIFE IF YOU DON’T LIVE UP TO YOUR OBLIGATIONS.
Gary Indiana Here’s a good question: why haven’t there been any museum shows of your work in New York? Robert Mapplethorpe That is a good question, but you could figure it out pretty easily. The contents of certain photographs are a bit more than certain people can deal with. It’s that way to a degree, anyway. The fact that I’m a New Yorker makes it a lot easier to get shows in European institutions—it’s easier for them to take a show of controversial material from a foreigner, someone who isn’t from there. GI When you do a show, do you have problems with censorship? RM Indirectly, yes. I haven’t had someone specifically say, “I can’t do that because this picture’s in there,” or “You better take that one out.” But it’s a heavy statement for somebody to take me on—in other words, it’s a lot easier just to avoid it. I’ve had a lot of that over the years. I am having a show at ICP in Philadelphia which is coming up in December, 1988; hopefully, that will travel to New York. We’re working on it now. GI Have there been situations where a gallery or institution says they want to do a show of your work, and they specify what kind of work they want? RM Maybe. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been easy and flexible about that, except when it comes to showing in my New York commercial gallery—I’m very specific about what I want in that show. But when it comes to other places, I like all the pictures equally. I don’t care if somebody just wants to show flowers; I’ll just show flowers. I’ve never been strict—you know—”If that picture doesn’t go in, I don’t do the show.” I’m much more flexible than that. If someone wants to do a portrait show, I do a portrait show. It’s not usually an issue, because I don’t care. Sometimes they feel they can put certain kinds of pictures in, but can’t go any further— maybe a cock, but it couldn’t be hard. That’s all right. I’ve seen too many artists being so overly sensitive to how their work is represented, and it’s so unattractive that I try to avoid it at all costs. 6
GI Can you say something about these new still lifes? RM I’m doing a series of dye transfers with color images, which I’ve never shown. I’ve done color pictures since I started taking pictures, but I never spent too much time with color, and never exposed it to the public. I always wanted to do dye transfers and couldn’t afford them. And now I can, so I’ve gone back. That’s a brand new picture, the last one in the group. And, had I not been doing all the magazine work I’ve been doing, I probably wouldn’t have come up with an image like that. I worked with an art director, setting it up. A lot of people who are “art photographers” won’t do anything commercial, they say it’s going to destroy the art. But I think it can add to it, actually. I think it’s a cop-out to take that attitude. Some of my better pictures, wouldn’t have been done had I not done work for House and Garden and all that stuff. GI I probably wouldn’t have written anything in the last two years if I didn’t have a job, actually. It’s funny, when you were talking about prima donnas… I’ve always found that completely unattractive also. RM I’ve seen people at openings, straight people I’m talking about, running around so nervous. You should be able to have a good time at your own opening. It’s your work and you’ve done it all your life, and if you don’t feel comfortable with it, something’s wrong. But I’ve seen them, real butch guys become these sort of— GI In your last show, you combined photographs with objects, which is something you tried doing years ago, too; now it’s starting to come together. RM I can finally afford to do it now. And putting photographs on other surfaces, getting rid of the paper… unfortunately, that’s very expensive. I don’t see them as photographs any more. I see them as objects that happen to use photography. GI Robert, I’m trying to remember. RM Stars and triangles and mirrors and colored glass. No photographs at all. Three shows ago. 7
I AM SELFISH, BUT THAT’S AN ATTRIBUTE THAT ALL ARTISTS POSSESS
Mapplethorpe met Lisa Lyon, the first World Women’s Bodybuilding Champion, in 1980. Over the next several years they collaborated on a series of portraits and figure studies, a film, and the book, Lady, Lisa Lyon. Throughout the 80s, Mapplethorpe produced a bevy of images that simultaneously challenge and adhere to classical aesthetic standards: stylized compositions of male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and studio portraits of artists and celebrities, to name a few of his preferred genres. He introduced and refined different techniques and formats, including color 20» x 24» Polaroids, photogravures, platinum prints on paper and linen, Cibachrome and dye transfer color prints. In 1986, he designed sets for Lucinda Childs’ dance performance, Portraits in Reflection, created a photogravure series for Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, and was commissioned by curator Richard Marshall to take portraits of New York artists for the series and book, 50 New York Artists.
That same year, in 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his illness, he accelerated his creative efforts, broadened the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepted increasingly challenging commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death in 1989.
His vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Today Mapplethorpe is represented by galleries in North and South America and Europe and his work can be found in the collections of major museums around the world. Beyond the art historical and social significance of his work, his legacy lives on through the work of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. He established the Foundation in 1988 to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.
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I'M LOOKING FOR THE UNEXPECTED. I'M LOOKING FOR THINGS I'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE.