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Robert Mapplethorpe
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Robert Mapplethorpe

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. :)


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