Robert Mapplethorpe is an American photographer, renowned for compositions of male and female nudes, still lifes, studio portraits of artists and celebrities and his testimony to the sado-masochistic scene.
Very popular in New York during the 1970s and 1980s. He was born on 4 November 1946 in Floral Park, New York, and died in Boston on 9 March 1989 at the age of 42 from AIDS.
He left behind more than two hundred poetic images, most of which are erotically potent and remain controversial in the United States.
Fascinated by the language of the body, which he continued to photograph from 1975 onwards, Robert Mapplethorpe said he sought to exalt perfect musculature. In order to make a living, he first multiplied his commercial projects by collaborating with trendy magazines.
In 1967, he meets Patti Smith with whom he will maintain an intimate relationship during five years, they created art together and maintained a close friendship throughout Mapplethorpe's life.
In 1980, he met a bodybuilding champion, Lisa Lyon, with whom he made numerous portraits that have remained a cult culminating in the 1983 photobook Lady, Lisa Lyon, and a film.
While Mapplethorpe is against the idea of his images being offensive, his work came under fire from the religious right in the late 1980s for its alleged obscenity, sparking a national debate about the role of the US government in funding the arts.
Inspired by the multi-technique approaches of Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, Mapplethorpe created collages using Polaroids and cut text in the 1970s.
In 1972, he met art curator Sam Wagstaff, who would become his mentor, lover, patron, and lifetime companion.
Throughout his career, he also used various photographic techniques such as photogravure and Cibachrome.
In 1987, he created his foundation for photography and to support AIDS research. His self-portraits show his ability to touch the viewer with the artist's physical suffering from the disease. Despite this, he has never portrayed himself as a weakling or a victim. Each portrait is a strong and provocative image of his identity.
A year before his death on 9 March 1989 at the age of 42 in Boston from complications related to the AIDS virus, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York presented the first major retrospective of his work in an American museum.
The black and white portrait of Frank Diaz considered “the hottest Puerto Rican in New York,” eventually became a fixture of the 70’s gay disco scene.
This photograph was initially displayed in NYC with a mirror directly to its right, turning every viewer into a potential victim of the drawn dagger, an example of Mapplethorpe’s subtle transgression and sensible, neoclassical harmony. The photograph’s palette references the elegant tones and shadows from the marble statues of classical antiquity. There is an allusion to religious imagery in this picture, in the manner of St. Michael, the archangel casting away demons, with the clutch of the dagger and winged eagle tattoo on the sitter’s forearm creating a tangible link. As with much of his work, Mapplethorpe bridges ancient aesthetics into the modern world.
51 x 41 cm
Gelatine Silver Print Ed. 7/10