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Our Town 

by Joanne A. Calitri

Joanne is a professional international photographer and journalist. Contact her at:

Mapplethorpe Exhibit and Smith at the Getty


t comes as no surprise in the unexpected wake, literally, of musicians and artists who have died in 2016, that passing back for another glance is the artist Robert Mapplethorpe [1946-1989]. Like the release of David Bowie’s Blackstar album depicting his death, Robert established his art foundation in New York City and final exhibit tour in 1989 titled The Perfect Moment, because for the first time in his career, he would show all his portfolios, X, Y and Z, together, 150 images created late 1960 to 1988. After he died, the Foundation chose the Getty Research Institute as the permanent home for more than 1,900 photos, letters, and other objects that belonged to him, and where the photo collection of Sam Wagstaff, Mapplethorpe’s beloved mentor and partner, also reside. Mapplethorpe’s transparent non-disclosure regarding any conflicts he was experiencing himself were voiced through his art, most of which was lauded during his prime, while uneducated art critics and press focused on one small X portfolio. Recompense has arrived in two concurrent retrospective exhibits titled, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium at the Getty Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). His creative partner and life-long friend Patti Smith joined the mix with two sold-out performances about their lives together at the Getty Center Auditorium and added a personal essay to the Getty Research Institute’s publication on Mapplethorpe. Concurrently, there is a documentary movie of his life, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures by directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Mapplethorpe’s black-and-white people photographs were part of the portrait curriculum taught at Brooks Institute of Photography when I was faculty there. Having read Smith’s book, Just Kids, which she signed when I covered her concert at the Granada last year, it was fitting I attended Smith’s performance, the Mapplethorpe exhibit at the Getty, and the LACMA VIP docent tour on Easter Sunday. Here are the highlights: The Getty Museum did a superb gallery layout of his works. The subdued and correctly angled lighting made it comfortable to view the photographs behind glass. His works were appropriately sectioned: early years, nudes, flowers, celebrities, 19 – 26 May 2016

self-portraits, and the infamous X portfolio. No one skipped past any part of the gallery, and there was much circling back to favorites, which are for the educated, his nudes, and his black-and-white flower series. In counterpoint, LACMA had more of his early sketches, jewelry, collages, art installations [untitled Altar 1970], Polaroids, memorabilia, ticket stubs, model releases, photoshoot schedules, rare color flower photographs, a film of him during a photo session with a male model, and a 13-minute 16 mm film of Patti titled Still Moving [1978]. The photography prints noted as originals or reprints, are jewels of gelatin silver printing, with a few dye diffusion prints, and all are labeled “Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art”. The Getty is exhibiting 137 prints; LACMA 162. Mapplethorpe discovered photography when Sandy Daley gave him her Polaroid camera for letting her film him. His first male model, David Croland, introduced Robert to art curator Sam Wagstaff who gave him his first Hasselblad camera and from there his professional art life began. Mapplethorpe was persona non grata in art until meeting Wagstaff; they became partners – Robert the artist and Sam his mentor. An Evening With Patti Smith was April 30, at the Getty Center Harold M. Williams Auditorium. The stage was set with a podium, guitars, stools, and a black baby grand piano. Smith entered with her longtime musician collaborator, Tony Shanahan, to an overwhelming applause. Compared to her hard-edged rock concert with our town’s Jay Dee last January at the Granada, she looked calm and peaceful. As expected, Patti gave an unabridged and free-flow performance where she shared moments of their life as best friends, lovers, and co-supporters of art. They were 20 when they met by chance in Brooklyn. Patti basically supported them with a job in Brentano’s and then Scribner’s bookstore, while Mapplethorpe worked tirelessly on his art. They lived at Chelsea Hotel in 1969, which she calls their “university.” Through his love and friendship of her, he financed her annual Rimbaud birthday events that launched her career and her first single, and took the jacket photographs for all but one of her albums. She talked about Robert’s

Patti Smith with Tony Shanahan tribute to Robert Mapplethorpe at the Getty Center

journey in photography, his meeting, and collecting photographs with Wagstaff. She started humbly with a poem she wrote for his memorial booklet, titled “Reflecting Robert” and passages from her book, Just Kids, with additional sidebars of their time together. The large movie screen behind her changed photographs to complement her readings, sometimes out of sequence, to which she quipped, “Memory is like cubism, it doesn’t matter if the photographs are out of order.” Songs she performed included

“Wild Leaves” – a song she wrote for Robert’s 40th birthday. Patti closed the tribute singing “Because the Night” and dedicated it to Robert. What is the perfect moment and the perfect medium? It seems Mapplethorpe and Patti’s life in art gives us both the question and the answer. 411: Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium on exhibit through July 31, at both the Getty Center: and LACMA: www. •MJ

A benefit concert providing support to nurture young string musicians




Mary Beth Woodruff Founder & Artistic Director, violin Ani Aznavoorian Principal Cello, Camerata Pacifica Robert Cassidy Director of Piano Chamber Music, Santa Barbara Strings, piano

Program includes music of Debussy, Faure, Messiaen, and Ravel SUN, MAY 22, 7 PM, HAHN HALL 1070 FAIRWAY ROAD, SANTA BARBARA TICKETS: $20 | UNDER 18 TICKETS: $10 This benefit concert is presented thanks to the generous support of Dr. Bernard Gondos.

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. – Mark Twain



Profile for Montecito Journal

Getting Stronger  

OsteoStrong is a year-old operation launched by former Curves franchisee Yvonne Parsons that seeks to strengthen brittle bones and actually...

Getting Stronger  

OsteoStrong is a year-old operation launched by former Curves franchisee Yvonne Parsons that seeks to strengthen brittle bones and actually...