Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 – 1989) had an eye for classical balance and perfection, whether photographing still lifes, the human figure, or the portraits that, perhaps surprisingly, make up earliest and the largest part of his oeuvre. In this first comprehensive overview of Mapplethorpe’s portraiture since the artist’s death at the age of 42, over twenty years ago, we see a side of Mapplethorpe quite different from that of the notorious controversy that surrounded his homoerotic nudes. Carefully composed, Mapplethorpe’s portraits reveal his highly refined sense of beauty and monumentality. At once timelessly elegant and strikingly intense, Mapplethorpe’s portraits—made both of his own initiative and on commission—bring to life the legendary cultural scene of New York in the late 1970s and 1980s and document several generations of influential creative personalities, from grande dame artist Louise Nevelson to punk poet and musician Patti Smith.
This exhibition presents exquisite black-and-white photographs of nearly one hundred artists, art dealers, writers, musicians, designers, dancers, actors, and actresses—many of whom changed the course of literature, visual art, and music. Included are William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Glenn Close, Marianne Faithfull, Richard Gere, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Grace Jones, Lisette Model, Alice Neel, Yoko Ono, Paloma Picasso, Iggy Pop, Isabella Rossellini, Ed Ruscha, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Andy Warhol. Many of the images are on loan from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York.
Guest curator Gordon Baldwin notes that these portraits document a key moment in New York life and in the LGBT community: “Mapplethorpe’s [portraits] are representative of New York at a particularly vibrant, prosperous, and expansive moment in its history, when it was the undisputed center of the art world, and before it experienced the full impact of the AIDS epidemic….” This exhibition and the accompanying catalogue reveal Mapplethorpe’s contribution to the history of photography and the evolution of the modern portrait.
This exhibition was organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California, with the assistance of guest curator Gordon Baldwin. The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Helene and Lou Galen Exhibition Fund and the Faye and Herman Sarkowsky Exhibition Fund.
Sponsored by the SJMA Store Guild.