Provocative, inspirational, genius: Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989
Robert Mapplethorpe was born on long island, received a B.F.A From Brooklyn were he was experimenting with varies types of art, but at this stage photography was not his primary passion. It was only later when he stated using a Polaroid instamatic, taking images of his friends and family that he would turn his attention to this art form and push the boundaries and become known for his more notorious photography. The very foundations of the art institutions would be rocked as Mapplethorpe presented work that for many was simply pornographic. But it was Mapplethorpe’s eye for light and shade that made the viewer see the artistic touch within these raw images that represented the underground sadomasochism New York club scene that Mapplethorpe so loved and from that he showed beauty within the darkness.
In his interviews he claimed not to want to shock, but by mixing images such as Louise Bougeois, renowned French-american artist and sculptor with a unfeasible large sex toy says he knew exactly how to play the media game, ensuring he quickly became established as someone to watch out for.
As his career continued, Mapplethorpe played with different styles and images, moving from the shock value of the S and M scene, to portraits of the famous, to flowers.It was even with this subject that he managed to bring erotica into the frame with their suggestive protruding pistol and feminine genital shaped curves. The way he captures their form is stunning, taking the way he uses his human subjects and applying that to the flowers, using isolation of the image, making the viewer take note of the light and shade, the shadows and shapes that are thrown up.
As beautiful as these well crafted images are, Mapplethorpe insisted that this type of work was done as a way of paying for projects, he was really interested in. He also added that the flower projects were the only type of his art that would be allowed in public galleries.
Had he lived, he would have smiled to see that his work that was once seen as too controversial would now be hailed as way before his time. Like Artist before him, Mapplethorpe pushed the boundaries, making images in art and media move forward, which can only be a good thing. What I finally want to say about this man is no matter what your view on him you must have some admiration, no matter how small that he would make you stop and think about his work, be it showing you beauty in the image of celebrities, flowers or exploring extreme sexual images and near the end of his life taking hard to view images of himself finally losing the battle to AIDS which stole away a great artist of our time.