Robert Mapplethorpe Fotografiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden June 17 – October 2
Stockholm's Photography Museum is hosting a retrospective of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, the most striking persona of 20th century art photography. Almost 200 loudly and discordantly critiqued photographic prints are on display from June 17 to October 2.
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989) studied at the private art and design college Pratt Institute in New York, where he acquired the foundations of academic art and majored in graphic arts. Notwithstanding the Pratt Institute's motto – “Be true to your work, and your work will be true to you!”, in 1969, its student Robert Mapplethorpe left the school without diploma nor degree in art, and developed an individualistic-to-the-point-of-nakedness vision and signature in the field of art photography.
The artist began his career as a director of independent film and worked with collage, using strips of paper torn from books and magazines. Mapplethorpe then moved on to the now-classic, revolutionary Polaroid instant-photo camera, which completely changed the way in which the artist worked.
Two decades-worth of work by the eccentric photographer reveal a powerful and consequential vision that strove for completeness in objects, models and forms, and a detailed balance thereof. Mapplethorpe's homosexuality, which he openly demonstrated in his work, crossed the line into many taboos, causing the art world to ponder – Is that allowable? Is a picture of a nipple classified as a nude or a still-life? Is the phallus a synecdochical portrait.
Mapplethorpe's homoerotic subject matter and Sodom-and-Gomorrah metaphors balanced his photography on the edge of being declared pornographic and amoral. The athletically sculpted male bodies seen in his photographs express a controversial intimacy and mutual trust between portraitist and model.
Mapplethorpe's signature use of photo manipulation – toning and highlighting, blatantly accents and brings attention to the most provocative parts of the picture; usually such bared information would be blocked-out with a black rectangle.
Even the conceptually simple, still-life compositions of flowers captured with his camera create an intoxicating effect; the sensuous mood of the phallicized photo series portraying the shapes and soft lines of blooming petals makes the blood pool to your lower abdomen, forcing you to modestly look away.
Robert Mapplethorpe's 1987 black-and-white photo portrait of the pop art classic Andy Warhol sold for 643,200 US dollars in 2006, thus joining the list of top 20 most-expensive photographs sold at auction.
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984 (c) Robert Mapplethorpe