Exhibition Catalogue. Text: English. 323 p.; ill.; 22 x 29 cm. Touring exhibition SCARCE #0721 Photography.
Robert Michael Mapplethorpe (November 4, 1946 – March 9, 1989) was an American photographer, best known for his black-and-white photographs. His work featured an array of subjects, including celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits, and still-life images. His most controversial works documented and examined the gay male BDSM subculture of New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A 1989 exhibition of Mapplethorpe’s work, titled Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, sparked a debate in the United States concerning both use of public funds for “obscene” artwork and the Constitutional limits of free speech in the United States.
Mapplethorpe took his first photographs in the late 1960s or early 1970s using a Polaroid camera. In 1972, he met art curator Sam Wagstaff, who would become his mentor, lover, patron, and lifetime companion. In the mid-1970s, Wagstaff acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and Mapplethorpe began taking photographs of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, including artists, composers, and socialites. During this time, he became friends with New Orleans artist George Dureau, whose work had such a profound impact on Mapplethorpe that he restaged many of Dureau’s early photographs. From 1977 until 1980, Mapplethorpe was the lover of writer and Drummer editor Jack Fritscher, who introduced him to the Mineshaft (a members-only BDSM gay leather bar and sex club in Manhattan). Mapplethorpe took many pictures of the Mineshaft and was at one point its official photographer (… “After dinner I go to the Mineshaft.”)
By the 1980s, Mapplethorpe’s subject matter focused on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and highly formal portraits of artists and celebrities. Mapplethorpe’s first studio was at 24 Bond Street in Manhattan. In the 1980s, Wagstaff bought a top-floor loft at 35 West 23rd Street for Robert, where he resided, also using it as a photo-shoot studio. He kept the Bond Street loft as his darkroom. In 1988, Mapplethorpe selected Patricia Morrisroe to write his biography, which was based on more than 300 interviews with celebrities, critics, lovers, and Mapplethorpe himself.
Mapplethorpe died on March 9, 1989 at the age of 42 due to complications from HIV/AIDS, in a Boston hospital. His body was cremated. His ashes are interred at St. John’s Cemetery, Queens in New York City, at his mother’s grave-site, etched “Maxey”.
Germano Celant was an Italian art historian, critic and curator who coined the term “Arte Povera” in 1967 and wrote many articles and books on the subject.