Robert Mapplethorpe 

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1980. Gelatin silver print, 14 1/8 x 14 1/16 inches (35.9 x 35.7 cm)Robert Mapplethorpe self-portrait, 1980

First thing associated with Robert Mapplethorpe is usually the controversial and often explicit depiction of the New York S&M scene, which he so majestically captured in the late 1970s. Truthfully, it is these controversial images and photographs of both male and female nudes that were signature to his work, and coincidentally made him one of the most prominent photographers. However, Mapplethorpe’s portfolio goes far beyond these kinds of subjects, his work also included magnificent pieces of still life, an array of different subjects, and more importantly – celebrity portraits.

A 1980 self-portrait.

Robert Mapplethorpe, self-portrait, 1980

Quite early,  back in 1970s, Robert Mapplethorpe discovered joy in taking Polaroid photographs. Eventually, he replaced the Polaroid with a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began shooting pictures of his circle of friends and acquaintances. These people, whom he associated with, were often famous musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars, and members of the S&M underground. Later on, he shifted the focus of his career onto the S&M subculture, vividly capturing that scene and lifestyle. However, portraiture has always represented the central component of his creative output. Mapplethorpe’s stylized compositions challenged society’s relationship with the celebrities, body image and male as well as female nudity. His works managed to both question and adhere to classical aesthetic standards, introducing and refining different techniques and formats, the artist gained worldwide recognition and renown.

30 Great Robert Mapplethorpe photosLisa Lyon, 1982

Deborah Harry, 1978Deborah Harry, 1978

Andy Warhol, 1986

Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith (1975)

Robert Mapplethorpe in front of his cover for Patti Smith’s Horses c.1975Robert Mapplethorpe in front of his cover for Patti Smith’s Horses circa 1975

 

Those only familiar with his more controversial work, such as the X Portfolio and other of his hardcore S&M images , incorrectly think of his work as merely shocking, grotesque and offensive.

“The X Portfolio centers on men engaged in gay sex, including hard-core sadomasochism. The subject wasn’t entirely new. In Greek vase decorations, Indian miniatures and pagan temple sculptures, candid and highly refined sex pictures, heterosexual and homosexual, have been around since before Alexander the Great and the Mahabharata.” – Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic

And yes, several of those photos are hard to look at – but do not let that put you off enjoying his oeuvre. So much of his work reveals the beauty of human anatomy, the elegance of nature and exposes the wistfulness of the soul. And here are several examples, in no particular order.

Anemone, 1989
Anemone, 1989
Ajitto, 1981
Ajitto, 1981Iggy Pop
I
Iggy Pop, 1981

Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984

robert-mapplethorpe grace-jones 1988
Grace Jones 1988

Holly Solomon, 1976
Holly Solomon, 1976

Isabella Rosellini, 1988
Isabella Rosellini, 1988
robert mapplethorpe, shoe melody, 1987hoe Melody, 1987

Derrick Cross, 1982
Derrick Cross, 1982

brooke shields mapplethorpe
Brooke Shields, 1988

Derrick Cross, 1985
Derrick Cross, 1985

Francesco Clemente, 1983
Francesco Clemente, 1983

Skull and Crossbones, 1983
Skull and Crossbones, 1983

Robaert Mapplethorpe, Lindsay Key 1985
Lindsay Key, 1985

Poppy, 1988
Poppy, 1988

William Burroughs, 1979
William Burroughs, 1979

Thomas, 1987
Thomas, 1987

Robert mapplethorpe, Orchid
Orchid

robert mapplethorpe, marissa-berenson-1983Marissa Berenson, 1983

Sigourney Weaver By Robert Mapplethorpe
Sigourney Weaver

Grace Jones 1984 by Robert Mapplethorpe, courtesy of the Tate
Grace Jones 1984 (body art by Keith Haring)

lisa-lyon 1982
Lisa Lyon, 1982

Robert Mapplethorpe Arnold Schwarzenegger 1976
Arnold Schwarzenegger 1976

photo of Ken Moody, 1983Ken Moody, 1983

White Gauze series, 1984.

all photos (C) Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s