Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Robert Mapplethorpe Profile

Mapplethorpe’s life and career are summarised here - Mapplethorpe Profile – and on the Mapplethorpe Foundation website. He is famous for his portrait, still life and nude photography, and somewhat notorious for his homo-erotic and S&M imagery.

Given the latter I was rather surprised by the humanity of his portrait work. This is most obvious, and perhaps predictable given their relationship, in his shots of Patti Smith, but is well displayed in the portrait gallery on the Mapplethorpe foundation website. Particular favourites are this one and this one which seem to be at odds with my previous impression of Patti Smith as a somewhat edgy rock singer/poet.

His male and female nudes are equally fascinating for their tonality and for their classical feel – it is unsurprising to see a range of shots of classical statues in the sample of his work on the Foundation website. His obvious delight in playing with the colour of skin comes through in shots such as this, where the visual effect is purely down to clever lighting, this delightfully tender nude study of two young women and this stunning double portrait which reminds me of the cut paper silhouette portraits popular in the 1800s and earlier.

I struggle a little with some of the more blatantly sexual material, which is as much, if not more, a reflection on me than anything else – even here though there is a quality to the work that makes it difficult to look away.

No comments: