Two exhibitions, one book and a documentary
From fetishists to flowers, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s meticulous works cast a classical approach on his subject matter. He created sharply-focused, carefully-posed images that were crisp and clean whether he was snapping a leather zipper mask or a wilting lily. While the late New York artist’s depiction of 1970s BDSM culture may be some of his most notable images, Mapplethorpe’s works extend far beyond latex suits and nude dudes.
Now, 27 years after his death, it’s the year of Mapplethorpe. There’s Phaidon’s new book, Mapplethorpe Flora: The Complete Flowers, and the recently opened shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Getty Museum, as well as HBO’s upcoming documentary, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, which airs April 4. The collaborative exhibitions, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, illuminate his prolific output, featuring more than 300 works. LACMA displays a wide swath of his photos, ranging from sexualized snapshots reflecting gay male desire to portraits of notable creatives, like his close friend and former lover Patti Smith; Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry; and pop art icon Andy Warhol. The exhibition also presents an inferential view of a long lost New York City, the edgy early days of midtown sex clubs, ascendant art stars, and the new trend of loft living. Plus, it showcases Mapplethorpe’s non-photographic works, including collages, jewelry design, and fashion pieces, unveiling the culture he so often experienced in private – in his everyday life, Mapplethorpe was confined by a pervasive anti-gay sentiment of his generation, but in his studio, he was truly free.