Robert Mapplethorpe was a photographer who did
many large-scale black-and-white photos with edgy and sometimes
homoerotic and sadomasochistic themes. His work also stirred
controversy at times in the world of photography.
Robert Mapplethorpe Self-Portrait
In 1989 before his death, Mapplethorpe wanted
to display his collection called The Perfect Moment to museums
such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art but several museums refused
his collection because the photos were too sexually explicit
for the general public.
However, Mapplethorpe didn't just focus on erotic
imagery as he also photographed celebrities such as Grace Jones,
Patti Smith, Richard Gere and Andy Warhol.
Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in the Floral
Park neighborhood of Queens. In 1963, Mapplethorpe attended
Pratt Institute and took up drawing, painting and sculpting.
He later worked with mixed media arts and in 1970 he started
his career in photography.
In 1973, he held his first exhibit at the Light
Gallery in New York City. It was also during this time that
he photographed fellow artists, musicians, socialites and pornographic
stars. In the mid-1970s, Mapplethorpe photographed sadomasochistic
subjects which had homoerotic themes.
Throughout the 1980s Mapplethorpe produced photos
that focused heavily on male and female nude models, flowers
and celebrities. Mapplethorpe also put platinum prints on paper
and linen as well as dye transfer color prints. In 1986 he was
diagnosed with AIDS and died in 1989.
According to Time magazine, Mapplethorpe was considered
one of the most persecuted artists in our times. In the 1980s,
Senator Jesse Helms and other congressmen wrote a letter of
disapproval to The National Endowment of the Arts regarding
Mapplethorpe's exhibits and when Mapplethorpe's exhibit arrived
at the Cincinnati Contemporary Museum of Art, the director got
in legal trouble.
Mapplethorpe was a controversial photographer
who stretched the boundaries of what genuine art should look
like (according to some). His work also resembled some of the
pop art that was made popular by Andy Warhol. Mapplethorpe was
ahead of his time in that he openly expressed sadomasochistic
themes through his photography during a time when these themes
were still considered taboo. Mapplethorpe's work also introduced
a debate on censorship in the arts.
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has chugged up a bit of totally
false dirt about Robert Mapplethorpe which includes a chicken,
an electric toothbrush and a nun. But, I can't tell you the
punch line to the joke because I may get in trouble with the
same people that went after Robert Mapplethorpe. :)